What is the retina?
The retina is the nerve layer at the back of your eye that detects light and sends images to your brain.
What is retinal detachment?
A retinal detachment occurs when the retina falls away from its normal position. The retina fails to sense light when it is detached and vision becomes compromised. A retinal detachment may cause blindness unless it is treated.
What causes retinal detachment?
The centre of the eye is filled with a clear gel called the vitreous. As we grow older, the vitreous loses volume and shrinks away from the retina. The vitreous usually separates from the retina without causing problems. Occasionally, the vitreous pulls on the retina to cause a tear. Fluid may seep beneath the retinal tear, lifting the retina off the back of the eye, causing retina detachment.
The following conditions increase the chance of having a retinal detachment:
What are the warning symptoms of retinal detachment?
These early symptoms may indicate the presence of a retinal detachment:
You should see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible in the presence of these symptoms.
Your ophthalmologist will need to dilate the pupils of your eyes in order to assess your retina adequately. Some retinal detachments are found incidentally during a routine eye examination.
What are the treatment?
Retinal tears may be treated with laser surgery or cryotherapy (freezing), which seals the tear and prevents further detachment of the retina. Most retinal detachments will require surgery to return the retina to its proper position. The type of surgery will depend on the location of the retina tear and extent of retinal detachment. Your surgeon will assess your eye and discuss these options with you. If your surgery requires a gas bubble to be placed in your eye, you will need to keep your head in a certain position after surgery until the gas bubble is gone. Do not fly in an airplane or travel at high altitudes until the gas bubble is gone. A rapid increase in altitude can cause a dangerous rise in eye pressure.
What are the risks of surgery?
All surgeries have risks, but the risks of retina surgeries are less than the expected benefits to your vision. Untreated retinal detachment usually results in permanent severe vision loss or blindness.
Some of the risks include:
A second operation may sometimes be needed if the retina re-detaches.
How much vision improvement can you expect?
The amount of vision recovery will depend on various factors such as the nature and severity of the underlying disease, extent of the detachment and how long the detachment has occurred. Discuss with your surgeon how much vision improvement can be expected.