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Retinal Detachment

Overview

A retinal detachment is when the inside lining of the eye (the retina) separates from the wall of the eye. The retina does not work when it is detached, making vision blurry. A detached retina is a serious problem. You must have it treated right away or you could lose sight in that eye.

Symptoms

A detached retina has to be treated right away. Otherwise, you could lose vision in that eye. Call an ophthalmologist right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • ‍Seeing flashing lights all of a sudden. Some people say this is like seeing stars after being hit in the eye.
  • ‍Noticing many new floaters at once. These can look like specks, lines or cobwebs in your field of vision.
  • ‍A shadow appearing in your peripheral (side) vision.
  • ‍A gray curtain covering part of your field of vision.

Causes

Vitreous gel, the clear material that fills the eyeball, is attached to the retina in the back of the eye. As we get older, the vitreous may change shape, pulling away from the retina. If the vitreous pulls a piece of the retina with it, it causes a retinal tear. Once a retinal tear occurs, vitreous fluid may seep through and lift the retina off the back wall of the eye, causing the retina to detach or pull away.

Vitreous gel, the clear material that fills the eyeball, is attached to the retina in the back of the eye. As we get older, the vitreous may change shape, pulling away from the retina. If the vitreous pulls a piece of the retina with it, it causes a retinal tear. Once a retinal tear occurs, vitreous fluid may seep through and lift the retina off the back wall of the eye, causing the retina to detach or pull away.

Vitreous fluid normally shrinks as we age, and this usually doesn’t cause damage to the retina. However, inflammation (swelling) or nearsightedness (myopia) may cause the vitreous to pull away and result in retinal detachment.

Diagnosis

Your ophthalmologist will put drops in your eye to dilate the pupil. Then they will look through a special lens to check your retina for any changes.

Treatment

The only way to treat a detached retina is with surgery. There are several types of surgery to fix a detached retina:

  • ‍Pneumatic Retinopexy – Your ophthalmologist puts a gas bubble inside your eye. This is intended to push the retina back into position where it can be lasered into place to secure it. This procedure may involve certain head positioning to ensure the bubble pushed where it needs to. The gas bubble is slowly reabsorbed by the body.  
  • Virectomy – This is a surgical procedure to remove the vitreous pulling on the retina. The vitreous will be replaced with a gas or oil bubble. The bubble pushes the retina into place so it can heal properly. If an oil bubble is used, your ophthalmologist will remove it a few months later. With a gas bubble, you cannot fly in an airplane. This is because altitude changes causes the gas bubble to expand, increasing eye pressure.
  • Scleral Buckle – A band of rubber or soft plastic is sewn to the outside of your eyeball. It gently presses the eye inward. This helps the detached retina heal against the eye wall. You will not see the scleral buckle on the eye. It is usually left on the eye permanently.
Source: 
American Academy of Ophthalmology