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What is a Retinal Detachment?

October 13, 2015

The National Institute for Heath and the Mayo Clinic both describe a retinal detachment as an emergency situation in which a critical layer of tissue (the retina) at the back of the eye pulls away from the layer of blood vessels that provides it with oxygen and nourishment. This lack of oxygen leaves the cells at risk and possible vision loss in the affected eye.  For this reason, if you suspect that the symptoms listed below are happening to you please contact your doctor immediately.

Warning Signs of a Retinal Detachment –

  • Appearance of floaters (bits of floating debris through your field of vision). They may look like string, dots or webs.
  • Flashes of light in the affected eye.
  • Shadow or dark area in field of vision. (Think of it as a curtain coming down.)

Types of Retinal Detachments –

  • Rhegmatogenous – This most common type of tear or detachment and happens when liquid gets under the retina and separates it from the retinal layer.
  • Tractional – This type is caused by scar tissue on the retina.  As it retracts and causes the detachment.
  • Exudative – Often caused by retinal disease, this type of detachment is often caused by an injury or trauma to the eye.

Causes of Retinal detachment can be a number of things including:  a trauma to the eye, advanced diabetes, an inflammatory disease or shrinkage of vitreous. People who are at a higher risk for this event are: over 40 years old, have extreme myopia, have a history of retinal detachment, previous cataract surgery and/or an eye trauma.

Treatment Methods – Most tears and detachment can be treated with laser surgery or a freeze treatment called cryopexy. These procedures are usually performed in the doctor’s office. During laser surgery tiny burns are made around the hole to “weld” the retina back into place. Cryopexy freezes the area around the hole and helps reattach the retina.

If any of these symptoms are happening seek immediate medical help.