What is a Detached Retina?
The most common type of detachment occurs when a tear or hole forms in the retina, allowing fluid from the middle of the eye to flow underneath. This causes the layers of the retina to separate. Since it is responsible for detecting light entering the eye and sending nerve signals to the brain about what the eye sees. If the retina detaches, it no longer works properly. This causes vision loss in the affected area.
What Are the Symptoms of a Detached Retina?
Vision loss from retinal detachment can range from very mild to severe and even to total blindness. Symptoms include:
- Floaters in your field of vision. Floaters are thick strands or clumps of solid vitreous gel that develop as the gel ages and breaks down. Floaters often appear as dark specks, globs, strings, or dots.
- Flashes of light or sparks when you move your eyes or head. These are easier to see against a dark background. The brief flashes occur when the vitreous gel tugs on the retina.
Who Does a Detached Retina Affect?
If you have a family history of retinal detachment or have experienced a previous retinal detachment in your other eye, you are at an increased risk. Age can also be a contributing factor in retinal detachments occurring; people over 50 are at a great risk. Other contributing factors include:
- Nearsightedness (Myopia). The shape of a nearsighted eye results in more pressure on the retina. This, in turn, can cause the retina to detach. The retina is also thinner and more likely to tear in people who are nearsighted.
- Diabetes can lead to diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that can lead to retinal detachment.
- Eye surgery. People who have had previous eye surgery are at an increased risk for later developing retinal detachment.
- Blunt injury or blow to the head.
- Injury to the eye.
- Other eye disorders, such as proliferative retinopathy or eye tumors.
How to Avoid a Detached Retina
It's difficult to prevent most cases of retinal detachment but not impossible. Diabetes puts you at greater risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, a disease that can lead to retinal detachment. If you have diabetes, you can help control and prevent eye problems by having regular eye exams and by controlling your blood sugar levels as your doctor advises.
Some eye injuries can damage the retina and result in detachment. Take the following precautions to avoid this:
- Use appropriate safety measures when you use fireworks or firearms.
- Wear special sports glasses or goggles during sports in which you might receive a blow to the eye.
- Wear safety glasses when you use a hammer or saw, work with power tools or yard tools such as weed eaters and lawn mowers, or do any activity that might result in small objects flying into your eye.
How Is a Detached Retina Treated?
Only surgery can repair retinal detachment. It is usually successful and, in many cases, restores good vision.
One of most common methods of repairing a retinal detachment includes vitrectomy. During a vitrectomy, the physician inserts small instruments into the eye, cuts the vitreous gel, and removes it. After removing the vitreous gel, the surgeon may treat the retina with a laser (photocoagulation), cut or remove fibrous or scar tissue from the retina, flatten areas where the retina has become detached, or repair tears or holes in the retina.
Other forms of surgery include scleral buckling surgery or pneumatic retinopexy. During pneumatic retinopexy a gas bubble is injected into the eye, acting as a glue to re-approximate the retinal tear to the wall of the eye.