Retinal detachment is a serious condition that can lead to severe visual impairment or even total blindness in the affected eye. If any part of the retina is lifted or pulled from its normal position, it is considered detached, and will cause some vision loss. The detachment will almost always progress, and vision loss will increase until it is treated. Therefore, retinal detachment is always considered an emergency.
Retinal detachment is caused by a combination of factors including retinal holes, retinal breaks, or retinal tears, and liquefaction of the vitreous humor. Any tiny tears or holes in the retina can allow vitreous fluid to seep under the retina, separating it from the back wall of the eye (like wallpaper). Retinal tears may also result from a hard blow or injury to the eye, though this is rather rare.
Not very common. Only 6-8 people out of 10,000 experience retinal detachment. Retinal detachment can occur at any age, but it is more common in midlife and later. It affects more men than women, and Caucasians more than Blacks.
Knowing the symptoms of a retinal detachment is your best defense. Also seek immediate eye care if you experience any symptoms as listed above have regular dilated eye exams if you are very nearsighted or if you have a family history of retinal problems be sure to have your eye doctor examine your eye after any serious eye injury always wear safety eyewear during sports and other hazardous activities
Detachment is more likely to occur if the other eye has the condition (such as lattice degeneration) associated with retinal detachment in the first eye. If only one eye suffers a serious injury or requires eye surgery then, of course, the chance of detachment in the other eye is not increased by the event.
A sudden increase in number and size of floaters is a warning that small amounts of blood and debris have appeared in the vitreous. The flashes are sensations from the retina as it is pulled or torn, or is rubbed by the loosened vitreous. If a tear breaks a larger retinal blood vessel, the blood spilling into the vitreous can cause a massive increase in floaters or even total loss of vision in that eye. The floaters will usually decrease in a few weeks or months and vision will improve, as long as the retina is not detached.
Most retinal tears do not cause problems and are not especially dangerous. However, if fluid starts to leak through them, the retina will start to peel (like wallpaper) and the detachment process begins. At first, you may have no symptoms, especially if the detachment is off to the side. Later, a “curtain” of darkness will start moving in and block out vision from one direction (the position depends on the location of the detachment). When the peeling process reaches the central zone of the retina (the macula), vision will suddenly and dramatically blur. As time goes on (which could be hours, days, or weeks), the curtain will continue to darken more and more of your vision, until you are left only able to see bright light. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your ophthalmologist as soon as possible for a thorough evaluation.
Because retinal tears and detachments are not visible from the outside of the eye, only a comprehensive eye exam can detect them. Your eye doctor will use a light magnification instrument to view the inside of your eye. Your eye doctor may also use certain types of magnification lenses, a slit lamp or ultrasound to diagnose retinal tears or detachments.
Yes. Early diagnosis and proper treatment is recommended to restore your vision. A small tear in the retina can be treated by laser or gas (Pneumatic Retinopexy). These procedures are in-office procedures. For larger detachment, a scleral buckle procedure is recommended. This procedure is done in a surgical center.
Dilated eye examination can detect if you are a suspect for a retinal detachment. The back of the eye will be examined with a special ophthalmoscope and with a slit lamp (clinical microscope). Sometimes a special type of contact lens with built-in mirrors is placed on the eye so the retina can be closely visualized. The ophthalmoscope shines a very bright light into your eye. The light will be uncomfortable, but it is absolutely necessary for a careful and accurate evaluation. Many young nearsighted people have thin areas in their retina called “Lattice degeneration.” These areas could be the precursor for retinal detachment. A laser strengthening procedure can be considered to prevent retinal detachment.