The retina consists of a layer of tissue in the back of the eye. It is sensitive to light and converts light to impulses in the brain that we translate into images. Without the retina in a fully functioning state, our vision cannot be clearly and accurately interpreted by the brain. A healthy retina lines the back of the eye. It is possible, however, for the retina to come apart from the back of the eye and this is known as a detached retina.
Symptoms of a detached retina
Detached retina symptoms include:
- A sudden increase in floaters, or black specks in your vision
- A sudden occurrence of flashes in your vision
- A shadow that is not truly there appearing in your periphery, or side vision
- A sudden decrease in your overall vision
- A curtain moving across your field of vision
Often in the midst of a medical emergency people feel pain, which is a pretty clear indicator of when to seek medical assistance. In the case of a retinal detachment, however, there is no pain. You cannot feel the detachment at all. Despite the lack of pain, a retinal detachment is an emergency and needs to be treated as one. If you experience any of the above symptoms it is imperative to seek medical attention immediately to prevent permanent loss of vision.
Detached retina causes
A detached retina can be caused by several different things. Unfortunately, it isn’t very preventable. The only preventative measures to take are to see your eye care professional regularly and to seek medical attention immediately if you begin to experience any of the aforementioned symptoms. Causes include vitreous gel within the eye pulling on the retina, eye injury, extreme nearsightedness, cataract surgery, tumors, and other eye diseases.
Detached retina surgery
Detached retinas are repaired surgically in one of the following ways.
Scleral buckling surgery is the most common surgical procedure to repair a detached retina. This procedure involves attaching a band to the sclera, or the white portion of the eye, to pull it backwards and allow the retina to reattach to the back of the eye. Scleral buckling surgery is often combined with one of the following two procedures to ensure that the retina is kept in place long enough to reattach and properly heal.
Pneumatic retinopexy is a surgical option in which vitreous gel is removed from the eye and replaced with a small gas bubble that pushes the retina back into place.
Similar to a pneumatic retinopexy, a vitrectomy includes replacing some of vitreous gel in the eye with oil to push the retina back into place.
If the retinal detachment was caused by a tear in the retina, your doctor will likely also perform a laser or freezing procedure to burn or freeze the tear shut.
The importance of seeking help immediately
A retinal detachment is a medical emergency and it is very important to seek help right away if you experience sudden symptoms of a detachment. The sooner you receive treatment, the better your odds are to regain your vision.