The retina is the tissue that covers the inside back of the eyeball. It is extremely delicate, as it is the part of the eye that allows a person to see. A detached retina is a potentially vision-threatening condition which happens when a person’s retina becomes unattached from the tissue supporting it. The retina is unable to function on its own and must be reattached quickly so a permanent loss of sight doesn’t occur. As long as the condition is caught and treated as quick as possible, any lost vision of the patient has an excellent chance of returning.
A retinal detachment can happen after an injury to the eye or eyes occur, or when an injury to the face happens. Those who are very nearsighted and wear eyeglasses or contacts for their condition may also be more prone to a detached retina, because their eyeballs are longer and they have thinner retinas. In rare cases, the vision surgery LASIK causes a retinal detachment of the eye. This figure is very low, with only four out of 1,500 patients suffering from this condition during surgery.
Other causes of retinal detachment may include: surgery, tumors, some eye conditions, diabetes, and sickle cell disease. Additionally, diabetic retinopathy can cause newer blood vessels to grow under a person’s retina, which in turn pushes it away from the tissue. Retinal detachments can be caused by tears; however, it is very rare, only occurring in one out of 10,000 people every year.
The condition of retinal detachment can happen with no pain at all occurring. There are signs however, that can point to the possibility. Sudden spots and flashes of lights in the eyes, as well as floaters, can indicate a retinal detachment. Blurred vision is a symptom, as is sudden poor vision. Many patients describe a shadow coming down over the affected eye, like when a curtain is being pulled down. This may happen from top to bottom, or from the side. The retina can detach itself in a gradual process, so these signs may be sporadic. However, the retina can also become detached immediately, so a consult with a doctor or eye doctor is recommended as soon as possible following any of these symptoms.
Treatment for a detached retina must be performed fast so the loss of vision does not occur. An eye surgeon will reattach the retina, using a few different methods. The first is laser photocoagulation, which seals off the blood vessels that are in the process of leaking, all the while destroying the growth of newer blood vessels. Other surgeries involve the injection of a silicone oil right into the eye, which will help keep the retina in place.
Any vision that was lost because of a retinal detachment will usually come back after the surgery is performed. Your doctor may give certain prescription eye drops or pain medicine to help with any discomfort afterwards. As long as the retina is attached as fast as possible, any loss of vision will almost always come back.