What is a retinal detachment?

 

A retinal detachment occurs when the retina is pulled away from its normal position.  The retina will not function when it is detached.  A detachment almost always causes blindness if left untreated.

Detached and Torn Retina

 What is the retina?

The retina is the nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and sends images to the brain.

An eye may be compared to a camera.  The lens in the front of the eye focuses light onto the retina.  You can think of the retina as the film that lines the back of the camera.

SCLERAL
BUCKLE

 What causes retinal detachment?

A clear gel called vitreous fills the middle of the eye.  As we get older, the vitreous pulls away from its attachment to the retina.  Sometimes, the vitreous pulls hard enough to tear the retina in one or more places.  Fluid may pass through the retinal tear, lifting the retina off the back of the eye.

The following conditions increase the chance of having a retinal detachment:

  • nearsightedness;

  • previous cataract surgery;

  • glaucoma;

  • severe injury;

  • previous retinal detachment in your other eye

  • family history of retinal detachment;

  • weak areas in your retina that can be seen by your eye doctor.

 What are the warning symptoms of retinal detachment?

 

  • flashing lights;

  • new floaters;

  • a shadow in the periphery of your field of vision;

  • a gray curtain moving across your field of vision;

These symptoms do not always mean a retinal detachment is present;however, you should see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

 What treatment is needed?

Retinal Tears

Most retinal tears need to be treated with laser surgery or cryotherapy (freezing) in order to seal the retina to the wall of the eye.  These treatments cause little or no discomfort and may be performed in the office.  Treatment usually prevents retinal detachment.

Retinal Detachments

Almost all detachments require surgery to repair the retina. 

 

 Types of surgery

Scleral Buckle

This treatment involves placing a flexible band to

counteract the force pulling the retina out of place.  

This procedure is performed in an operating room.

Pneumatic Retinopexy

In this procedure, a gas bubble is injected into the vitreous space inside the eye.  The gas bubble pushes the retinal tear closed against the wall of the eye.  

Your surgeon will ask you to maintain a certain head position for several days.  The gas bubble will gradually disappear.

GAS BUBBLE

After surgery

You can expect some discomfort after surgery.  Your surgeon will prescribe any necessary medications for you and advise you when you may resume normal activities.