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What Is Retinal Detachment?

July 18, 2017

The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye, almost like film in a camera. It is responsible for sending visual messages through the optic nerve to our brain. If your retina detaches, it is lifted or pulled from its normal position, and vision loss can occur. If not promptly treated, retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.

Who Is At Risk for Retinal Detachment?

A retinal detachment can occur at any age and in males or females of any race. However, it is more common in people over the age of 40. It also is known to affect Caucasians more than other races.

A retinal detachment is more likely to occur in those who:

  • Have severe nearsightedness
  • Have had a previous retinal detachment
  • Have a family history of retinal detachments
  • Have had cataract surgery
  • Have had an eye injury
  • Have an eye disease such as uveitis, degenerative myopia, lattice degeneration, or retinoschisis

Symptoms of Retinal Detachment

The most common symptom of retinal detachment is a slow or fast onset of flashes and floaters. Floaters can appear as specks or cobwebs floating around in your vision. Flashes appear as flashes or sparks of light out of the “corner“ of your eye. They are most often seen at night and are sometimes mistaken for lightning or a reflection off of glass. Some patients even experience a curtain over a portion of their central or peripheral vision.

Types of Retinal Detachment

There are three types of retinal detachment:

  • Rhegmatogenous – This is the most common type of retinal detachment. This occurs when a tear or break in the retina appears. This tear can cause fluid to get under the retina and causes a separation from the retina pigment epithelium (RPE).
  • Tractional – This form of retinal detachment is not very common. If you have scar tissue in the eye, this may cause the retina to separate from the retina pigment epithelium.
  • Exudative – This is also an uncommon form of retinal detachment. Sometimes, even though there are no tears or breaks in the retina, fluid leaks under the retina. This is commonly caused by retinal disease or injury to the eye.

Treatments for Retinal Detachment

When a small tear or hole hasn’t progressed to detachment, your OCLI doctor can usually perform an outpatient procedure to preserve most of your vision. This can be done with a laser or a procedure called cryopexy. With cryopexy, your OCLI doctor freezes the retina surrounding the retinal tear. Both of these procedures help mend and weld the retina back in place.

For a retinal detachment, the treatment is surgery, which is usually performed in a hospital or surgery center on an outpatient basis. Sometimes surgeons will use a scleral buckle that acts as a rubber band to gently push the eye wall against the retina. Another option is vitrectomy. This procedure removes the vitreous gel and replaces it with a temporary gas bubble, which holds the retina in place. The gas bubble goes away on its own. These procedures are performed under either local or general anesthesia in a surgical suite.

After surgery, patients will need to position themselves most commonly facedown or lying on their side for 5-10 days. This allows the air bubble to press against the retina as it heals. Although inconvenient, this is a crucial step to the success of the surgery.

With today’s technology and surgical skills of your OCLI retinal surgeon, the majority of patients with a retinal detachment can be successfully treated; however, some additional treatments may be required.

For more information about retinal detachment, or to schedule a consultation, call OCLI at 1.866.733.6254.

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