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The retina is the layer of light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eyeball that triggers the optic nerve to pass information to the brain so that you can see. According to the Mayo Clinic, when that layer of cellular tissue begins to detach from the eye, it loses a large portion of its blood supply and oxygen. This emergency situation is called a retinal detachment, and – if it isn’t treated within a short timeframe – it can result in partial or total vision loss in the affected eye.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A DETACHED RETINA?

Retinal detachment is not painful. However, it does have some very obvious symptoms. If you experience any or all of these problems with one or both eyes, make an appointment with your ophthalmologist immediately:

  • Sudden flashes of light occur in one or both eyes. This may only last a few minutes, or it may be continuous. Either way, call your eye doctor.
  • Part or all of the visual field in one or both eyes is obscured, as if covered by a shadow or a curtain.
  • You suddenly notice many floaters in one or both eyes.

The symptoms for retinal detachment can sometimes mirror those of an ocular migraine. If you are prone to ocular migraines or have had these symptoms in the past, you should still see an eye doctor to ensure that you are not at risk for retinal detachment.

WHO IS AT RISK FOR RETINAL DETACHMENT?



Anyone can suffer from a detached retina, but people who are nearsighted and experience a lot of eyestrain are more susceptible than others. If your eye muscles are constantly straining to bring your eye into focus, they are also putting pressure on your retina, and it can eventually detach.

This is yet another reason that nearsighted patients should make regular visits to the eye doctor and keep their prescriptions up to date. Avoiding eye strain could help prevent retinal detachment.

TREATMENT FOR RETINAL DETACHMENT

If your eye doctor determines that you have a detached retina, he or she will schedule you for surgery as soon as possible. One of two surgeries will be performed, either photocoagulation (laser surgery) or cryopexy (freezing).

During laser surgery, your surgeon will aim a high-powered laser at the tear, essentially “welding” your retina into place with scar tissue. If your surgeon decides cryopexy is the best route, he or she will apply a probe to the outer surface of your eye and freeze the area around the tear. This also results in scar tissue that will hold the retina in place.

Other surgical treatments for retinal detachment involve injecting a bubble of air or gas into the eye to push the retina into place and promote healing. Your surgeon may also perform a procedure called scleral buckling, in which a silicone suture is made on the eye, indenting it and relieving the pressure to pull the retina out of place.

The sooner you seek medical attention for a detached retina, the less involved treatment will be, and the more likely you will be to experience little or no vision loss.

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