A retinal detachment is a separation of the retinal tissue from the back of the eye and is an ocular emergency.
Signs and Symptoms of a Retinal Detachment
The primary symptoms of retinal detachment is a sudden onset of lightning streaks in the peripheral vision followed by a shower of hundreds of new floaters. In cases of a full retinal detachment, a curtain will come across the patient’s vision leaving the eye completely blurry.
What Causes a Retinal Detachment?
To fully understand a retinal detachment, patients need to understand the anatomy of two tissues – the vitreous and the retina. The vitreous is a Jell-O like substance composing the majority of the inside body of the eye. The retina lines the inside of the eye like wallpaper and acts as the “film in the camera” for your vision. The vitreous is attached to the retina at different points. When we are younger, the vitreous is solid and firm like cold Jell-O. As we age, the vitreous shrinks like dried up Jell-O and pulls on the retina as it shrinks. When this pulling on the retina happens, patients may often see a flash of light in their vision as the retina will respond to this stimulus similar to getting poked in the eye.
In most cases, the vitreous will shrink and pull away from the retinal attachment points resulting in an end to the flashes. This is called a posterior vitreous detachment and is a normal aging process. In the case of a retinal detachment, the vitreous pulls the retina off the back of the eye just like pulling wall paper off a wall. As the retina detaches it often bleeds and sheds pigment cells into the vitreous and these will appear as hundreds of new floaters in the vision.
How is a Retinal Detachment Diagnosed?
A retinal detachment can only be diagnosed with a dilated pupil retinal examination by an eye doctor. This should be performed the day that the symptoms start.
How is a Retinal Detachment Treated?
Left untreated, the vision loss from retinal detachment will be permanent. After the diagnosis is made, your eye doctoral will refer you to a retinal specialist will perform one or a combination of the following procedures.
- Scleral Buckle: this procedure involves wrapping a buckle around the outside of the eye in an effort to constrict the eye and further reduce the traction on the retina. This is the most common and effective retinal detachment repair.
- Victrectomy: this procedure involves removing the entire vitreous from the inside the eye which will release tension on the retina .
- Pneumatic Retinopexy: this procedure involves injecting a gas bubble into the eye in an attempt to push the retina back into place. This procedure is fairly limited in its use.
What Steps Should I Take If I Think I Am Having A Retinal Detachment?
Get to our clinic immediately! No appointment is necessary if you are having retinal detachment symptoms. A prompt retinal repair will often lead to visual recovery but delaying the repair will result in permanent vision loss. He has 22 of years of experience treating patients with retinal detachments and other related conditions. The sooner he can check your eyes, the better. All doctors agree that waiting and hoping it will get better is not a prescription for success.