Retinal detachment is a serious condition that occurs when the retina pulls away from its supporting tissues. Since the retina can’t work properly under these conditions, permanent vision loss might occur if a detachment is not repaired.
Who's at risk for retinal detachment?
Retinal detachment is considered a risk for the following groups of people:
- Nearsighted adults
- People who have had an eye injury
- People who have had an intraocular surgery
- People with a family history of retinal detachment
Retinal detachment might also be spontaneous (occur suddenly). This occurs more often in the elderly or in nearsighted people.
What are the symptoms of retinal detachment?
Symptoms of retinal detachment include:
- Seeing flashes of light
- Floaters (small flecks or threads) in the visual field
- Darkening of the peripheral visual field (side vision)
There is no pain associated with retinal detachment, but if you have any of the symptoms listed above, contact your eye doctor immediately.
How is retinal detachment diagnosed?
Retinal detachment is diagnosed through an eye exam by a retinal specialist.
How is retinal detachment treated?
There are a number of approaches to treating a detached retina. Sometimes these approaches can be combined. Treatments include the following:
- Laser (thermal) or freezing (cryopexy): Both of these approaches can repair a retinal tear if it is diagnosed early enough.
- Pneumatic retinopexy: This procedure can be used if the tear is small and easy to close. A small gas bubble is injected into the vitreous (the gel that fills the inside of the eye), where it rises and presses against the retina, closing the tear. A laser or cryopexy can then be used to seal the tear.
- Scleral buckle: This procedure involves placing a silicone band (buckle) around the eye to hold the retina in place. This band is not visible and remains permanently attached. A laser or cryopexy can then be used to seal the tear.
- Vitrectomy: This procedure is used for larger tears. During a vitrectomy, the vitreous is removed from the eye and a bubble of gas or silicone oil is placed in the eye.
Can retinal detachment be prevented?
Early diagnosis is key to preventing vision loss associated with retinal detachment. It is important to get your eyes checked every year, and more often if you are at greater risk of eye disease.
Regular eye exams are important for people who are nearsighted and more prone to retinal detachment. If you are unsure about your risk, talk to your eye doctor. He or she can tell you how often you should have your eyes examined.
If you notice any symptoms of a possible retinal detachment, such as flashes, floaters, or darkening of peripheral vision, call your doctor immediately.