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What is Retinal Detachment?

November 9, 2016

As the leading cause of blindness in the United States, retinal disorders are serious conditions that require attentive medical care. One such disorder that you may have heard of is retinal detachment. Let’s examine the important function of the retina and the serious problem called retinal detachment.

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of our eye. Light rays are focused onto the retina through our cornea, pupil and lens. The retina takes that light and converts it into impulses that travel through the optic nerve to our brain, where they are interpreted as the images we see. A healthy, intact retina is key to clear vision.

When a retina pulls away from the normal position it is in, it is called a retinal detachment. Symptoms that this may be happening include: an increase in floaters which are spots or cobweb type features that “float” into our line of vision, and/or light flashes in the eye that reduce the field of vision.  According to the National Eye Institute, a retinal detachment is also more likely to occur in people who: are extremely nearsighted, have had a retinal detachment in the other eye, have a family history of retinal detachment, have had cataract surgery, have other eye diseases or disorders, such as retinoschisis, uveitis, degenerative myopia, or lattice degeneration or have had an eye injury. If you have risk factors for retinal detachment, and know the warning signs you should seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these signs.

Your ophthalmologist can diagnose this if what you are experiencing is, in fact, a retinal detachment. A retinal tear or a detached retina is repaired with a surgical procedure usually a laser treatment or freezing treatment depending upon your situation. In some cases a scleral buckle, a tiny synthetic band, is attached to the outside of the eyeball to gently push the wall of the eye against the detached retina. If necessary, a vitrectomy may also be performed. Talk to your doctor about what procedure may be right for you.