Retinal Tears: An Eye Emergency
Retinal tears, holes and detachments are emergency situations. In these instances, the retina, the thin tissue in the back of your eye, becomes torn or detached from its normal position. When a patient experiences retinal tears or detachment, they may experience a sudden appearance of floaters and flashes and/or reduced vision.
If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately as untreated retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.
What is Retinal Detachment?
When your retina becomes detached from the back of the eye, it also separates from important blood vessels providing oxygen and nourishment to the eye. If your retina continues to be detached, you have a greater chance of permanent vision loss in that eye. Retinal detachment should not go untreated.
Signs and Symptoms
Although retinal detachment is painless, there are several signs and symptoms of the detachment that accompany the condition before it has progressed. These symptoms include the appearance of tiny specks in the field of vision (floaters), flashes of lights, blurry and unclear vision, reduced peripheral vision and a shadow over the field of view.
Causes of Retinal Detachment
Retinal detachment can occur for many reasons. The most common reasons are sagging of the gel-like material that fills out the inside of the eyes known as the vitreous, injury or diabetes in an advanced state.
There are several risk factors for retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is often the result of aging, as it commonly is seen in patients over the age of 50. It also carries in family history and can be inherited. If you have previously detached a retina, it is more likely to happen again. Nearsighted individuals are more likely to detach a retina, as well as those who have had cataract removal or other eye surgeries, eye injuries or eye disease and/or inflammation.
Management and Treatment
To repair a retinal tear, hole or detachment, surgery is almost always utilized. There are several methods that are available to eye patients. Consult your eye doctor about what treatment is right for you.
If a retinal tear has not yet detached from the retina, your doctor may recommend either laser surgery or freezing to correct the problem.
Laser surgery (photocoagulation) involves the operating surgeon directing a laser into the pupil of the eye. The laser burns the retina to the tissue by causing the areas outside the retinal tear to become hot and scar around the edges.
When freezing (cryopexy) is the chosen option, the surgeon will administer a local anesthetic to numb the eye. The surgeon, then directly over the tear, will apply a freezing probe to the outer surface of the eye. Again in this instance, the scar that forms on the outside of the tear “burns” the retinal tear back together and fuses the retina back to normal.
These are both outpatient procedures. Be careful to be easy on your eyes in the week or so after the procedure to avoid any damage to the recovery.
If your retina has already become detached from the thin layer at the back of the eye, surgery will be necessary to repair the damage. This surgery is known as pneumatic retinopexy and should be performed as soon as possible after you are diagnosed (within a few days). Your surgeon may recommend several types of surgery, including injecting the eye with gas or air, indenting the eye’s surface area, or draining and replacing the eye’s fluid.
Consult with Your Doctor
If you experience the signs and symptoms of retinal tears, holes or detachments, seek medical attention immediately. You may have a greater risk of retinal detachment if you are older than 50, have a family history of retinal detachment or are nearsighted.
Retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss, so it is important to consult your doctor about your concerns. If you have more questions about retinal tears, holes or detachments, schedule a visit with Dr. Ghosheh of Laser for Eyes. You can also take a look at Dr. Ghosheh’s medical blog for further information about these conditions or other eye disorders.