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What is
Retinal Detachment?

Retinal detachment is a medical emergency where the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, separates from its normal position. This separation can lead to vision loss if not treated promptly.

Risk Factors

Symptoms

Flashes of Light

You may see sudden and brief flashes of light in your peripheral vision. These flashes can resemble the sensation of seeing stars or lightning, and they can occur without any apparent external source of light.

The sudden appearance of numerous small, dark specks or cobweb-like shapes in your field of vision. Floaters may be more noticeable when you look at a bright, evenly lit background, such as a white wall or the sky.

The central or peripheral vision may become blurred, distorted, or wavy. Some people describe it as a “curtain” or “veil” obstructing part of their field of view.

You might notice that you have lost your peripheral (side) vision in one or both eyes.

A noticeable shadow or curtain-like obstruction may appear in your vision, usually starting from one side and gradually progressing. This is a significant warning sign of retinal detachment.

A noticeable shadow or curtain-like obstruction may appear in your vision, usually starting from one side and gradually progressing. This is a significant warning sign of retinal detachment.

It’s important to note that not everyone with retinal detachment will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary. If you notice any of these signs or have concerns about your vision, seek immediate medical attention from an eye care specialist or visit the nearest emergency room. 

Treatment Types

Scleral Buckling

Scleral buckling is a surgical technique in which a silicone band or sponge is placed on the outside of the eye to gently push the wall of the eye inward, against the detached retina. This reduces tension on the retina and allows it to reattach. Scleral buckling is often combined with cryopexy (freezing) or laser therapy to seal retinal tears.

During a vitrectomy, the vitreous gel inside the eye is removed to access the retina directly. The surgeon then repairs any retinal tears or detachments using various techniques, such as laser photocoagulation, cryopexy, or the injection of gas or silicone oil to reattach the retina. Sometimes a vitrectomy is necessary when other methods are not suitable due to the extent or location of the detachment.

In this procedure, a gas bubble is injected into the vitreous cavity of the eye. The patient is then positioned in a way that allows the gas bubble to rise and push against the detached retina, sealing the tear or hole. Laser or cryotherapy (freezing) is often used in conjunction with this procedure to create scar tissue that helps hold the retina in place.

In complex cases, a combination of the above techniques may be used to achieve successful reattachment of the retina. This could involve pneumatic retinopexy followed by vitrectomy or scleral buckling in combination with vitrectomy.

After surgery, a gas bubble or silicone oil may be injected into the eye to help maintain pressure on the retina and support its reattachment. The choice between gas and oil depends on the specific circumstances of the detachment.

After surgery, patients are usually required to maintain a specific head position or posture for a certain period to ensure the gas bubble or silicone oil supports the reattached retina. Postoperative follow-up visits are critical to monitor progress and address any complications.

The choice of treatment depends on the individual patient’s condition and the characteristics of the retinal detachment. The sooner retinal detachment is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of preserving or restoring vision. If you suspect you have a retinal detachment or experience symptoms, seek immediate medical attention from an eye care specialist or visit the nearest emergency room. Early intervention is crucial to prevent permanent vision loss.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is retinal detachment?

Retinal detachment is a medical emergency where the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, separates from its normal position. This separation can lead to vision loss if not treated promptly.

Retinal detachment can be caused by several factors, including age-related changes in the vitreous gel, trauma to the eye, eye surgery, retinal tears or holes, and underlying eye diseases.

Symptoms may include the sudden onset of floaters, flashes of light, blurred or distorted vision, reduced peripheral vision, and the perception of a shadow or curtain-like obstruction in your field of vision.

Retinal detachment itself is not typically painful. However, the underlying causes or associated conditions, such as retinal tears, may cause discomfort or pain.

While it cannot always be prevented, you can reduce your risk by wearing protective eyewear during activities with a risk of eye injury, managing underlying eye conditions, and seeking prompt treatment for conditions that increase your risk.

Diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive eye examination by an ophthalmologist or retinal specialist, often using specialized imaging tests such as ultrasound, fundus photography, and optical coherence tomography (OCT).

If left untreated, retinal detachment can indeed lead to permanent vision loss. However, with prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment, many cases can be successfully managed, and vision can be preserved or restored.

While it is rare for both eyes to experience retinal detachment simultaneously, it is possible for one eye to develop retinal detachment shortly after the other. This underscores the importance of seeking timely treatment to prevent bilateral vision loss.