What is retinal detachment?
The retina is a thin layer of tissue that lines the inner posterior portion of the eye. It consists of fine cells called photoreceptors, or rods and cones. These cells transmit light from the eye to the brain where it is perceived as vision. During a retinal detachment, the retina partially or completely peels away from the back of the eye. Once it is detached, the retina stops working and light signals cannot get back to the brain to be processed. To the patient, some degree of vision loss occurs. Depending on the severity of the detachment, vision loss can be severe and permanent.
What are the causes of retinal detachment?
The causes of a retinal detachment are numbered: injury to the eye, blow to the head, eye diseases, eye surgery, conditions such as diabetes and excessive nearsightedness or myopia. For unknown reasons, some patients may simply have areas where their retina is thinned. These areas could potentially lead to spontaneous retinal detachments. It should be noted that a retinal detachment can occur years after an eye injury or a blow to the head takes place.
What are the symptoms of retinal detachment?
Symptoms of retinal detachment usually consist of seeing flashing lights or floating spots in the vision, or an overall decrease in vision. Patients sometimes describe the decrease in vision as a “curtain” or veil coming down into their field of vision. But some patients experience no symptoms at all.
How do you treat retinal detachment?
If a Doctor of Optometry detects a retinal detachment during their examination, they will refer the patient to an ophthalmologist. Treating a retinal detachment involves surgery. The goal of the surgery is to first reattach the affected retina and to secondly prevent further vision loss. If there are areas of retinal weakening, such as retinal holes or tears, even without a detachment, an ophthalmologist may elect to stabilize the retina using freezing or a laser treatment (not the same laser used for laser eye surgery) to decrease the chance of a retinal detachment occurring. The longer a patient waits to have a retinal detachment repaired, the lower the success rate of the surgery.
How do you prevent retinal detachment?
Preventing a retinal detachment can be very difficult. Often, they occur spontaneously with no prior warning signs. However, when performing high-risk activities such as sports, using power tools or yard tools, always wear eye protection. Due to the vision loss that can result from a retinal detachment, should you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, promptly consult the care of a Doctor of Optometry or ophthalmologist to have your retina thoroughly examined. Seeing a Doctor of Optometry for routine eye examinations can help prevent small asymptomatic retinal holes, tears and detachments from progressing. If detected early and treated as soon as possible, the patient may never even be aware of them.
Image by the National Eye Institute/National Institutes of Health (http://www.nei.nih.gov/photo/eyedis/index.asp) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons