WHAT IS A TORN OR DETACHED RETINA?
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of our eye. Light rays are focused onto the retina through our cornea, pupil and lens. The retina converts the light rays into impulses that travel through the optic nerve to our brain, where they are interpreted as the images we see. A healthy, intact retina is key to clear vision.
The middle of our eye is filled with a clear gel called vitreous that is attached to the retina. Sometimes tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous will cast shadows on the retina, and you may sometimes see small dots, specks, strings or clouds moving in your field of vision. These are called floaters. You can often see them when looking at a plain, light background, like a blank wall or blue sky.
As we get older, the vitreous may shrink and pull on the retina. When this happens, you may notice what look like flashing lights, lightning streaks or the sensation of seeing “stars.” These are called flashes.
Picture 1: Retina Detacment After Ball Impact
TORN OR DETACHET RETINA CAUSES
Vitreous gel, the clear material that fills the eyeball, is attached to the retina in the back of the eye. As we get older, the vitreous may change shape, pulling away from the retina. If the vitreous pulls a piece of the retina with it, it causes a retinal tear. Once a retinal tear occurs, vitreous fluid may seep through and lift the retina off the back wall of the eye, causing the retina to detach or pull away.
Vitreous fluid normally shrinks as we age, and this usually doesn’t cause damage to the retina. However, inflammation (swelling) or nearsightedness (myopia) may cause the vitreous to pull away and result in retinal detachment.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR A TORN OR DETACHED RETINA?
People with the following conditions have an increased risk for retinal detachment:
If you have risk factors for retinal detachment, know the warning signs and seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these signs. If you are very nearsighted or if you have a family history of retinal problems, be sure to have complete dilated eye exams on a regular basis. And always wear protective eyewear when playing sports or engaging in any other hazardous activities. If you have a serious eye injury, see your ophthalmologist right away for an exam.
Picture 2: Retina A lid with a cap (flap)
TORN OR DETACHED RETINA SYMTOMS?
Symptoms of a retinal tear and a retinal detachment can include the following:
Picture 3: Retinal Detachment with Flail Retina Rupture
TORN OR DETACHED RETINA SYMTOMS
Your ophthalmologist can diagnose retinal tear or retinal detachment during an eye examination where he or she dilates (widens) the pupils of your eyes. An ultrasound of the eye may also be performed to get additional detail of the retina. Only after careful examination can your ophthalmologist tell whether a retinal tear or early retinal detachment is present. Some retinal detachments are found during a routine eye examination. That is why it is so important to have regular eye exams.
Picture 4: Separation of Hole and Retina in Macular Region
TORNED RETINA TREATMENT
A retinal tear or a detached retina is repaired with a surgical procedure. Based on your specific condition, your ophthalmologist will discuss the type of procedure recommended and will tell you about the various risks and benefits of your treatment options.
TORN RETINA SURGERY
Most retinal tears need to be treated by sealing the retina to the back wall of the eye with laser surgery or cryotherapy (a freezing treatment). Both of these procedures create a scar that helps seal the retina to the back of the eye. This prevents fluid from traveling through the tear and under the retina, which usually prevents the retina from detaching. These treatments cause little or no discomfort and may be performed in your ophthalmologist’s office.
LASER SURGERY (PHOTOCOAGULATION)
With laser surgery, your ophthalmologist uses a laser to make small burns around the retinal tear. The scarring that results seals the retina to the underlying tissue, helping to prevent a retinal detachment.