What Is a Retinal Detachment?
The retina is a layer of photosensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. It detects light as it enters the eye and sends the information to the brain. The eye acts very much like a camera, and the retina acts as the film that captures the image.
When the retina is peeled off of the back wall and out of its proper position, it’s a condition known as retinal detachment. Because it’s no longer in the correct position, the retina is unable to perform its function, causing significant vision issues and loss. Retinal detachments must be treated right away, as they can cause irreversible blindness if left untreated.
Causes of Retinal Detachment
Retinal detachment is often caused by the vitreous gel that fills the inside of the eye pulling it out of place. This is typically seen in older patients, which is due to the fact that the vitreous gel loses its viscosity as we get older. As the vitreous gel diminishes in thickness, it can sometimes get stuck to the retina and pull on it, causing the retina to tear. The tear creates an opening for more fluid to leak through. If enough fluid seeps through, it can completely disengage the retina from the back wall of the eye.
In addition to age, there are several risk factors that increase your chances of experiencing a retinal tear or detachment. These include:
- Myopia (i.e. nearsightedness)
- Traumatic eye injury
- Previous surgery for cataracts
- A family history of retinal detachment
Symptoms of Retinal Tears and Detachment
The most common symptoms that patients with retinal tears and detachments experience are the sudden appearance of new floaters and flashing lights in their field of vision. Most patients also report either a shadow in their peripheral vision or a gray shadow moving across their central vision. These symptoms typically get worse the more the retina becomes detached.
However, it’s important to note that these symptoms don’t always indicate a retinal tear or detachment. In fact, these symptoms can mean any number of issues. Regardless, if you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s crucial that you schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist as soon as possible so that you can get a proper diagnosis through a dilated eye exam.
Types of Surgery for Retinal Detachment
Retinal detachments almost always require surgical intervention to correct the problem. There are many surgical treatments that may be used.
A scleral buckle is a surgical procedure that uses a flexible piece of material to push the sclera (i.e. the white part of the eye) against the retina, thereby securing the retina against the back wall of the eye. During the procedure, the surgeon will typically remove the liquid that has seeped under the retina.
Pneumatic retinopexy involves injecting a gas bubble into the vitreous cavity contained within the eyeball, which helps to push the torn retina closed. This procedure is sometimes performed in conjunction with laser therapy or cryotherapy.
The vitrectomy procedure is a surgery that involves removing the clear gel that fills the eyeball, known as the vitreous humor. This is done either to allow the surgeon to repair the detached retina or to remove the force that is pushing the retina out of place. The vitreous humor is usually replaced with a gas bubble.
Schedule a Consultation for Retinal Detachment
To learn more about retinal detachment treatment options schedule a visit with one of our retina specialists, or call us toll-free at 800.331.3719 or 206.215.3850. We have locations in Seattle, Bellevue, Bellingham, Burlington, Mountlake Terrace, Kent, and Ellensburg.