Retinal Detachments and Tears

Retinal Detachments/Tears

The Idaho Eye Center also offers diagnosis and treatment of many other types of retinal disorders including retinal tears and retinal detachments. However, in some cases, the Idaho Eye Center may refer patients to other specialists in the region for a particular retinal disorder.

A retinal detachment is a serious eye problem which effects one if every 10,000 people. Retinal detachment occurs when the retina becomes separated from the back wall of the eye.  When the retina becomes detached, its blood supply is reduced and its ability to process light rays is impaired.  If total detachment occurs, the retina becomes useless, as it can no longer transmit information to the brain, and the eye becomes blind.

What Causes Retinal Detachment/Tears

As part of the normal aging process, the clear fluid which fills the inner cavity of the eye begins to shrink and pull away from the retina. Most of the shrinking causes no damage to the eye. However, sometimes the vitreous remains attached to the retina and then the shrinking of  the vitreous causes the retina to tear. 

Left untreated, retinal tears can lead to retinal detachments. Once a retinal tear is present, fluid from the vitreous may seep through the tear into the space between the retina and the wall of the eye.  The fluid causes the retina to separate from the back of the eye or detach.  The part of the retina which becomes detached will not function properly, resulting in vision loss.  

What are the Symptoms of Retinal Detachments/Tears

Retinal tears may develop without any noticeable symptoms.  In other cases, the vitreous gel pulling away from the retina may cause the patient to see flashes of light.  Floaters, whish appear as black spots or lines in the field of vision, may result from bleeding of torn retinal vessels or the formation of small clumps of vitreous matter.  

Once retinal detachment occurs, the patient may notice a wavy or watery quality in their vision.  If detachment occurs in the peripheral retina, a curtain or shadow may appear across the field of vision. If the area of detachment is in the macula, central vision will be distorted and reduced. The patient will be unable to read or see in fine detail. Occasionally, detachment occurs suddenly and is accompanied by a total loss of vision.

Treatment

Many retinal tears can be treated with lasers or with a freezing probe (cryopexy) and can be done on an outpatient basis in an ambulatory surgery center like the Idaho Eye Surgicenter. Once a retina becomes detached, it must be repaired surgically, usually in a hospital setting.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Retinal tears and detachments are serious problems which require immediate treatment. Persons who are severely nearsighted or have a family history of retinal detachment should have regular eye examinations to detect any changes in the vitreous or retina.  Persons who have suffered a serious eye injury should also be examined for retinal damage. With early diagnosis, retinal tears can be treated before retinal detachment and loss of vision occurs.  

If you are experiencing the symptoms of a retinal tear or detachment or another vision problem, you should contact an eye physician immediately.

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