About Retinal Detachment
Retinal detachment, otherwise known as a detached retina, is a serious event that can threaten sight. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue lining the inside of the eye. Light enters the eye and strikes the retina, which converts the light rays into impulses that the optic nerve carries to the brain for processing., otherwise known as a detached retina, is a serious event that can threaten sight. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue lining the inside of the eye. Light enters the eye and strikes the retina, which converts the light rays into impulses that the optic nerve carries to the brain for processing.
Retinal detachment occurs when the retina moves from its normal position, which prevents the retina from converting light rays into impulses. If not treated promptly, a detached retina can cause permanent vision loss.
Types of Retinal Detachment
There are three types of retinal detachment – rhegmatogenous, tractional and exudative. Eye specialists categorize retinal detachments according to their cause.
- Rhegmatogenous detachments are the most common type, occurring when a retinal tear or break allows vitreous fluid to get under the retina. The fluid pushes against the retina and separates it from the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which is the pigmented cell layer that provides nourishment for the retina.
- Tractional detachments occur when scar tissue on the surface of the retina contracts, which pulls the retina away from the RPE.
- Exudative retinal detachments are often the result of retinal disease, especially inflammatory disorders, and injury or trauma to the eyes. In exudative detachments, fluid leaks into the area beneath the retina but does not cause breaks or tears.
Risk Factors for Detached Retina
Anyone can develop a detached retina but certain risk factors increase the likelihood that someone will experience this type of vision problem. It is more common in people over the age of 40.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) says that 67 percent of people who develop retinal detachment are nearsighted. Other risk factors include retinal detachment in the other eye, a family history of detached retina, cataract surgery, uncontrolled diabetes, and blunt trauma to the eye. Glaucoma medications that make the pupils small can increase the risk, as can weak spots in the retina as seen by a trained ophthalmologist during an eye exam.
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Retinal Detachment
Retinal detachment does not normally cause pain but a detached retina does present some warning signs and symptoms.
Warning signs of retinal detachment include:
- Flashes of light
- Blurry or poor vision
- Seeing a shadow, ‘curtain’ or ‘cobweb’ that descends from the top of the eye or across from one side
Symptoms of retinal detachment can occur suddenly if the retina detaches immediately from the RPE, or come on gradually as the retina slowly pulls away from its supportive tissue.
Treatment of Retinal Detachment
Treatment for retinal detachment usually involves surgery to repair it. The goal of treatment is to prevent detachment of the macula, which is the center part of the retina that is responsible for fine, detailed central vision.
Many cases of retinal detachment are suitable for treatment from an outpatient clinic.
- Laser surgery or freeze treatment known as cryopexy can treat small holes and tears.
- Surgical treatments include scleral buckling surgery that treats detachment associated with traction by “buckling” the eye with a small band of silicone or plastic to relieve the pulling action against the retina.
- In another procedure, vitrectomy, eye doctors use clear silicone gel to push the retina back into place. Pneumatic retinopexy is similar to vitrectomy but uses a small bubble of gas rather than silicone gel to reposition the retina.
Vision improves and stabilizes after reattachment of the retina to its RPE. The ability to read relies largely on whether the macula was detached, the severity of the detachment, how long the retina was detached and the type of treatment performed.
Treatment with modern therapies helps over 90 percent of those with a retinal detachment, although sometimes patients need a second treatment.
If you’re having issues with your vision or interested in learning more, call Sealy Eye Center at 979-627-7400 or schedule an exam and consultation today.