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What Is a Detached Retina?

Detached RetinaYour retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inside of your eye and sends visual messages to the optic nerve. A detached retina, or retinal detachment, refers to when the retina is lifted or pulled from its normal position. Retinal detachment is a serious condition that, if left untreated, can cause permanent vision loss.

How Retinal Detachment Occurs

Retinal detachment can occur in a few ways. The most common way it occurs, however, is when vitreous – the fluid at the core of the eye – leaks through a hole or tear in the retina. This gel-like material then collects, and slowly peels the retina away from the underlying tissues. Once the retina is detached, it is cut off from the layer of blood vessels that provide it oxygen and nourishment. The longer the retina stays detached, the greater the risk of permanent vision loss.  

The Three Types of Retinal Detachment

There are three types of retinal detachment:

  • Rhegmatogenous – this type of detachment occurs from a tear or break in the retina that allows fluid to get under the retina and separate it from the underlying tissues that give it nourishment. This is the most common type of detachment.
  • Tractional – this type of detachment is caused by scar tissue on the retina’s surface contracting and therefore pulling the retina away from its normal position. This type of detachment is less common.
  • Exudative – detachment is caused by fluid leaking into the area underneath the retina as a result of retinal disease or trauma. The difference between exudative and rhegmatogenous is there is no hole or tear in the retina in exudative detachment.

Risk Factors

While retinal detachment can happen to anyone, at any age, it’s more likely to occur in people who:

  • Are extremely nearsighted
  • Have a family history of retinal detachment
  • Have undergone cataract surgery
  • Have experienced an eye injury

Symptoms of Retinal Detachment

You can’t “feel” your retina; therefore, a detached retina won’t cause you any pain. However, there are usually warning signs that appear before complete detachment occurs. Here are a few symptoms to look for:

  • Seeing “floaters” (small flecks or spots)
  • Flashes of light
  • Appearance of a curtain over your field of vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Darkening of your peripheral vision

It’s important to know that a detached retina is a medical emergency. If you are experiencing the symptoms above, make sure you see an eye care professional immediately.

Treatment

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing vision loss from a detached retina.  Treatment varies based on the state of detachment and when you are diagnosed. Laser or freezing methods may be used if you are dealing with a retinal tear or hole. Once complete detachment has occurred, surgery is generally required. The good news is that with modern therapy, over 90% of people with a retinal detachment can be successfully treated.

If you have questions about retinal detachment, or are experiencing the symptoms of detachment, call the team at The Vision Gallery. Your vision is our top priority.

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