The Most Common Signs of Retinal Detachment
Do you know the symptoms that may occur when your retina has become detached? Recognizing common retinal detachment symptoms can help you protect your vision and reduce your risk of permanent changes to your vision.
What Is Retinal Detachment?
A retinal detachment occurs when part of your retina peels away from the back of the eye. The retina is a layer of cells that lines the back of the eyes. Retinal cells capture light rays and change them into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain. Once the impulses reach the brain, they're transformed into recognizable images.
What Are the Symptoms of Retinal Detachment?
Retinal detachment symptoms include:
- Floaters: You may notice a sudden increase in floaters after a retinal detachment. Floaters are wispy fibers that separate from the vitreous, the gel-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye. The fibers cast shadows when you look into the light and seem to float across your vision. Although floaters are common as you age, the sudden appearance of many floaters is a cause for concern.
- Flashing Lights: You may also see flashes of light when the retina detaches.
- Sudden Vision Changes: It may be difficult to see clearly, or you might notice changes in your central or side vision after a retinal detachment.
- Loss of Vision: If your retina is detached, you might notice a partial loss of vision. People who've had retinal detachments have mentioned that it seems as if a dark curtain has fallen over their eyes.
Who Is at Risk for Retinal Detachments?
You may be more likely to experience a detached retina if:
- You Had an Injury: A blow to the eye can cause retinal detachment. See your ophthalmologist as soon as possible after a blow, even if your vision seems fine. Eye injuries may not always be obvious immediately after an accident.
- You Have an Eye Disease: Some eye diseases and conditions increase your retinal detachment risk, including lattice degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, extreme nearsightedness, and posterior vitreous detachment.
- Other Members of Your Family Have Had Detached Retinas: Your risk of a detachment might increase if other people in your family have had retinal detachments.
- You Had an Eye Surgery: Cataracts, glaucoma, and other types of eye surgery can raise your retinal detachment risk.
How Are Retinal Detachments Treated?
It's important to go to the emergency room immediately if you notice any symptoms of retinal detachment. The sooner you receive emergency treatment, the better the chances that your vision can be restored. Retinal detachment treatment is successful for about 9 out of 10 people, according to the National Eye Institute.
Keep in mind that symptoms aren't always dramatic, particularly if you don't have a severe detachment or tear in your retina. Any sudden change in vision, no matter how mild, should always be investigated. Unfortunately, if you don't see an ophthalmologist promptly, you may develop a permanent loss of vision.
Ophthalmologists use several different methods to treat retinal tears and detachments, including:
- Cryopexy. Your ophthalmologist applies a freezing probe to the borders of the tear or detachment during cryopexy. The treatment causes scarring, which seals the retina to the back of the eye.
- Laser Surgery. Laser surgery also seals a torn or detached retina to the back of the eye. Laser light causes scarring by creating small burns.
- Scleral Buckle. Your eye doctor sews a sponge or band on to the sclera (white part of your eye). The buckle pushes the sclera closer to the back of the eye, which helps the detached area of the retina reattach. Cryopexy or laser surgery is then used to seal the retina.
- Pneumatic Retinopexy. Injecting gas or air into your eye creates a bubble that helps your retina reattach. Laser surgery or cryopexy may be used in conjunction with pneumatic retinopathy.
- Vitrectomy. Vitrectomy involves removing the vitreous gel from your eye to allow easier access to the detached area. Laser surgery or cryopexy may be performed during the procedure. The surgery might also include the injection of a gas bubble to hold the retina in place. Saline solution or silicone oil is added to replace the removed vitreous gel.
Have you noticed any sudden changes in your vision? Call our office immediately or go to the emergency room if you experience any potential retinal detachment symptoms.
National Eye Institute: Retinal Detachment, 626/19
American Society of Retina Specialists: Retinal Detachment