Retinal Tears & Detachments
Lining the back wall of the eye is a thin multi-layered, photo-sensitive tissue known as the retina. Containing millions of photoreceptor cells, the retina is what allows our eyes to see in sharp focus. It works somewhat similarly to film in a camera, where light focused on the retina is captured and sent to the brain via neural impulses sent along the optic nerve so that the brain can decode the information into an image.
In spite of the powerful role it plays in central vision, the retina is exceptionally thin and delicate, and can sometimes be torn or even pulled out of place. When a retina is peeled away from the underlying support structure of the eye, it is known as a retinal detachment.
As the name implies, retinal tears are when small breaks or tears occur in the retina. This can be caused by injury or trauma to the eye. It can also be caused by a condition known as posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), which is when the vitreous humor (the clear gel-like liquid that fills the eye) pulls away from the retina.
PVD is generally considered to be a normal cause of aging and, in many cases, is not necessarily a cause for alarm. However, for some people, the vitreous humor can get stuck to the retina and, as it recedes, cause a small break or tear in the retinal tissue.
When the retinal tissue becomes disengaged from the back wall of the eye, it’s known as a retinal detachment. The most common type of retinal detachment is caused by PVD-related retinal tears. As the retina tears open, the vitreous fluid can leak under the retina, causing the retina to peel away like wallpaper. Retinal detachments can also be caused by fluid-build up behind the retina without any tears being present. This is most typically caused by leaking in the retinal vascular system or edema in the back of the eye. In some cases, retinal detachments are caused by scar tissue pulling on the retina.
Retinal detachments may start off as being only partial and later develop into a full detachment. Without immediate care, retinal detachments can lead to permanent vision loss. They are considered to be a medical emergency.
Symptoms of Retinal Tears & Detachments
The most common symptoms typically reported with retinal tears and detachments are the sudden appearance of new and unusual flashes and floaters. Flashes resemble small bursts of light or bright spots in your field of vision, while floaters look like dark, shadowy, and translucent specks and shapes floating in your vision. Blurred vision, reduced peripheral vision, and a sudden curtain of darkness over your vision can also occur. These symptoms generally intensify in the moments before the retina has detached. Once the retina detaches, patients experience a sudden but painless loss of vision in the affected eye.
Retinal Tear & Detachment Treatment
Retinal tears and detachment often require some kind of surgical intervention, the most common of which being:
- Scleral buckling, in which a piece of silicone is fastened against the white of the eye so that it can hold the retina in place against the back wall of the eye
- Vitrectomy, in which the vitreous gel is removed from the ocular orb so that a retina surgeon can repair the torn or detached retina
- Photocoagulation, in which lasers are used to close tears and secure the retina to the supportive structural tissues
- Cryopexy, in which a freezing probe is applied to the eye to form scar tissue that will secure the retina to the back wall of the eye
- Pneumatic retinopexy, in which a gas bubble is injected into the eye, pushing the retinal tissue back against the eye
Because retinal tears and detachment carry such a high risk of permanent vision loss, it’s important that patients act right away if experience the warning signs (i.e. flashes and floaters). The sooner retinal tears and detachments are treated, the more likely you will be to preserve your vision.
For advanced care for retinal tears and detachments in Central California, contact California Retina Consultants today.