Retinal Detachment

What Is A Detached Retina?

A detached retina is when the retina lifts away from the back of the eye. When the retina detaches, it doesn’t work properly, so vision is blurry. As we age, the vitreous shrinks and gets thinner. Sometimes the vitreous sticks to the retina and pulls hard enough to tear it. When that happens, fluid can pass through and tear and detach the retina. This is a serious problem and needs to be evaluated right away or you could lose sight in that eye.

Risk Factors

  • Needing glasses to see far away (nearsighted)
  • Prior surgery for cataracts or glaucoma
  • Having had a prior retinal tear or detachment

Patients with a retinal tear or detachment often see flashes and floaters as the first sign. Patients may also see a gray curtain covering part of their vision. Other patients experience few symptoms at all. Typically, you will not experience any pain. If this is left untreated, most will cause progressive loss of vision and eventually, total blindness.

How is a Retinal Detachment Diagnosed?

A dilated retinal exam begins with administering dilating eye drops to open the pupils. This allows the ophthalmologist to see the retina and look for signs of a hole, tear or detachment.

Treatment

Surgery is done to repair the detached retina. Below are some types of surgery:

  • Pneumatic Retinopexy-During an in-office procedure, a gas bubble is put inside your eye. This bubble pushes the retina back into place so it can heal.
  • Laser Surgery-During this in-office procedure, the detached area (if very small) is sealed off so that it doesn’t expand.
  • Scleral Buckle-This procedure is done in an operating room. This surgery involves putting a silicone band around the outside of the eye to gently press the eye inward. It helps the detached retina heal against the eye wall. You cannot see the buckle and it is usually left on permanently.
  • Vitrectomy-This procedure is also done in an operating room. This surgery involves removing the vitreous and replacing it with an air, gas or oil bubble. The bubble keeps the retina flat until it heals. If oil is used, it will need to be removed. If an air or gas bubble is used, you cannot fly in an airplane because the change in altitude can cause the gas to expand.