The retina is a thin tissue that lines the back of the eye. It contains light-sensitive photoreceptor cells that receive and send information to the brain through the optic nerve, and the brain interprets the information to develop images – giving what we call “sight.” Damage to the retina can result in impaired sight or even complete blindness.
A retinal tear is when the retina is pulled away from its position. This can lead to blood or fluid leaking into the eye, and likely increase “floaters” in one’s vision. Retinal detachment is when the retina detaches completely, which causes vision loss. It is a serious medical emergency, as delayed treatment could affect the outcome.
Symptoms of a Retinal Tear or Detachment
Flashes of light and floaters (those little squiggles like grey or black fibers floating across your vision) are the most common signs of a retinal tear. If these happen suddenly or to an extreme degree, the risk of impending detachment is higher than if symptoms gradually worsen.
If you do notice flashing light, or more / bigger floaters in your sight, call an ophthalmologist right away.
Other signs of a retinal tear include a shadow appearing in side (peripheral) vision, a gray curtain floating across your vision, a sudden decrease in vision, difficulty focusing, and headaches. Though in some cases, there may be no noticeable symptoms.
Conditions Related to Retinal Tears or Detachment
These are some conditions associated with retinal tears and detachment:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Inflammatory disorders
- Certain cancers
- Sickle cell disease
- High myopia
- Retinal degeneration
- Hereditary eye conditions
- Incidents of eye trauma
- Retinopathy of prematurity (infants)
As we age, the vitreous gel in our eye naturally begins to separate from the back of the eye, known as posterior vitreous detachment (PVD,) and increases the risk of developing a retinal tear.
In most cases, signs of a retinal tear won’t be noticeable from the outside, other than potential redness or swelling from excess eye pressure. An eye doctor needs to examine the inside of the eye to diagnose a retinal tear, using dilating drops, ophthalmoscope, slit lamp, or ultrasound device in the case of too much blood obstructing the view.
Treatment of a Retinal Tear and Detachment
Not every retinal tear needs treatment. Sometimes they can be monitored closely without intervention if there are no symptoms present. Sometimes they naturally develop an adhesion around the tear, essentially repairing itself.
When needed, a retinal tear can be surgically repaired. Torn Retina Surgery reseals the retina to the back wall of the eye either via lasers or freezing treatment (cryotherapy.) The type of procedure will depend on the extent of the tear. Both types essentially create a scar to seal the tear, preventing fluid from leaking.
A retinal tear warrants immediate examination, to prevent the worst-case scenario of retinal detachment. Caught early, most detached retinas can be reattached, with sight partially or completely recovered.
Trust the Retina Specialists at Gulf Coast Eye Institute
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