The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye and sends visual messages through the optic nerve to the brain. When the retina detaches, it is lifted or pulled from its normal position. If not promptly treated, permanent vision loss occurs.
How does a retinal detachment occur?
Often, retinal detachment occurs after a posterior vitreous detachment. The clear vitreous gel, which initially fills the internal eye, shrinks with age. Eventually, it separates from the retina at the back of the eye, but in doing so can tear a hole in the peripheral retina. These holes are called retinal tears or retinal breaks. Fluid from inside the eye passes through the hole and accumulates beneath the retina. The retina separates from the wall of the eye.
What are the symptoms of retinal detachment?
Symptoms include a sudden or gradual increase in either the number of floaters, which are little "cobwebs" or specks that float about in your field of vision, and/or light flashes in the eye. Another symptom is the appearance of a curtain over the field of vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of a retinal detachment should see an eye doctor immediately.
Who is at risk for retinal detachment?
A retinal detachment can occur at any age, but it is more common in people over age 40. Other factors that increase your risk of retinal detachment include nearsightedness, history of retinal detachment in the other eye, a family member with a retinal detachment, prior cataract surgery, eye trauma, and other retinal disorders.
How are retinal detachments treated?
If the anatomy of the detachment is favorable, cryotherapy and pneumatic retinopexy can be performed in the office. This treatment is possible in a minority of retinal detachments.
More commonly, retinal detachments are treated with surgery in an operating room. In some cases a scleral buckle, a tiny synthetic band, is attached to the outside of the eye to reposition the wall of the eye against the detached retina. Alternatively, a vitrectomy may also be performed.
Over 90% of retinal detachments can be successfully treated with one or more treatment. The visual outcome is not always predictable and may not be known for several months following surgery.
The National Institute of Health http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001027.htm
The National Eye Institute http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/retinaldetach/index.asp
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