Retinal detachment is an emergency situation in which a thin layer of tissue (the retina) at the back of the eye pulls away from its normal position. The longer retinal detachment goes untreated, the greater the risk of permanent vision loss in the affected eye.
Warning signs of retinal detachment may include one or all of the following:
• The sudden appearance of floaters (tiny specks that seem to drift through your field of vision)
• Flashes of light
• Blurred/reduced vision
• Gradually reduced peripheral (side) vision
• A curtain-like shadow over your visual field
Contact our office right away if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Who is at Risk for a Retinal Detachment?
The following factors increase your risk of retinal detachment:
• Aging — retinal detachment is more common in people over age 50
• Previous retinal detachment in one eye
• A family history of retinal detachment
• Extreme nearsightedness (myopia)
• Previous eye surgery, such as cataract removal
• Previous severe eye injury
• Previous other eye disease or disorder, including retinoschisis, uveitis or thinning of the peripheral retina (lattice degeneration)
Treatment and Prognosis
When a retinal tear or hole hasn't progressed to a retinal detachment, our retina specialists may suggest one of the following procedures to prevent retinal detachment and preserve vision:
• Laser Treatment involves directing a laser beam into the eye through the pupil. The laser creates burns around the retinal tear. These burns create scars that seal the retina from the underlying tissue, to help prevent a retinal detachment.
• Freezing Treatment involves a retina specialist using a special freezing probe to apply intense cold that freezes the retina around the retinal tear. This results in a scar that helps secure the retina to the wall of the eye.
If your retina has detached, you'll need surgery to repair it, preferably within days of a diagnosis. The type of surgery our specialists recommend will depend on several factors, including the severity of the detachment. Most retinal detachment surgeries (80 to 90 percent) are successful, although a second operation is sometimes needed.
Injecting Gas into the Eye
In this procedure, a gas bubble is inserted into the vitreous, the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eyeball. The gas bubble pushes the retinal tear into place against the back wall of the eye. This procedure also uses a freezing treatment to repair the retinal break.
This treatment involves placing a flexible band (scleral buckle) around the sclera, the outer white part of the eyeball. This band gently presses the eye inward to counteract the force pulling the retina out of place, allowing the retina to settle back into its normal position against the back wall of the eye.
The buckle is placed in a way that doesn't block your vision, and it usually remains in place permanently.
This procedure uses a tiny incision in your eye to remove the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eyeball (vitreous gel). Once the gel is removed, a gas or silicone oil bubble will be placed in the eye to push the retina back against the wall of the eye. It's done in a surgery center or hospital using local or general anesthesia.
You cannot fly in an airplane until the gas bubble is gone. This is because elevating quickly in altitude can make eye pressure rise. That can cause problems with the bubble. Eventually, the gas will be absorbed, and the vitreous space will refill with body fluid. If silicone oil was used, it may be surgically removed months later.