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Retinal Detachment

Category: Vision Health Concern

Published: 2016-10-12

A retinal detachment is a very serious condition that can lead to vision loss. Usually a detachment occurs in middle aged people but a sudden blow to the head or jarring movement can also cause the retina to detach.

What Happens During A Retinal Detachment?

A retinal detachment happens when the retinal layer of cells in the eye separate from the layer called the vitreous. The vitreous provides oxygen and nourishment to the retina and other tissue. In most cases the virtuous only partially separates from the retina. As we age, small tears can form between the two surfaces leading to a complete detachment.

Permanent vision loss is at higher risk the longer the retina stays detached and untreated.

Signs Of A Retinal Detachment

A retinal detachment is almost painless but warning signs will always occur after the detachment has taken place:

  • The appearance of floaters or flashes (tiny specks that drift through your vision)
  • Gradually reduced peripheral vision
  • A shadow or curtain like cover over your peripheral vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches or eye strain

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your eye doctor quickly for a full eye examination  Certain segments of the population have a greater risk of a retinal  detachment including:

  • Those aged 50 or over
  • People with a family history of retinal detachments
  • Those that are extremely nearsighted (myopia)
  • Previous retinal detachment in one eye
  • Pre-existing eye conditions or surgery such as cataract removal

How Are Retinal Detachments Diagnosed?

Various tests, procedures and instruments may be used to diagnose a detachment, including:

Retinal examination where a doctor uses an instrument to examine the back of the eye and retina, allowing the doctors to see any holes, tears, or detachments

Ultrasound imaging to test if bleeding is occurring in the eye, affecting the retina or surrounding tissue.

Retinal Detachment Treatments

If the retina is torn, and caught before full detachment occurs, it can be treated quickly. A procedure called laser photo-coagulation can be done to seam or seal small tears, stopping them from forming a full detachment.

If the retina is detached, surgery will need to be performed. In almost 90 percent of cases, a retinal detachment can be successfully treated.  More complicated cases may require a vitrectomy which involves  the removal of vitreous tissue that is pulling away at the retina.

About 40 percent of people who have surgery for a retinal detachment report that their vision is successfully restored within six months.