The retina is a thin layer of tissue that lines the inside surface of the eye. The retina receives light that has focused by the lens, it converts the light into neural signals, and sends these signals on to the brain for visual recognition. When the retina becomes damaged, it can lead to serious loss of vision quality and even total loss of vision. Retinal Detachments and Retinal Tears are two conditions that can greatly affect the functioning of the Retina.
What is a Retinal Tear?
A Retinal Tear is when the thin layer of retinal tissue develops a defect, or tear. A retinal tear is characterized by the gradual or sudden onset of floaters in the eye and can be as a result of an injury or just aging. Immediate action is required in order to prevent the tear becoming a retinal detachment.
What is a Retinal Detachment?
A retinal detachment refers to the thin layer of retinal tissue becoming detached from the back of the eye. This is caused by an initial tear in the retina, the flow of fluid into the gap between the retina and the back of the eye and the retina being lifted away from the back of the eye. The detachment can be partial resulting in blurry vision but if not treated immediately can result to a substantial loss of vision.
Causes of Retinal Tears
The cavity of the eye is filled with a gel like substance called Vitreous and this comes into contact with the Retina and keeps it in place at the back of the eye. This gel breaks down with age and becomes more liquefied and this causes the gel to separate from the back of the eye. This is known as posterior vitreous detachment (or PVD). A PVD is a common occurrence but sometimes when the Vitreous is separating it can pull and open up a tear in an area of the retina.
The most common risk factors for retinal tears and detachment are as follows:
- Advanced age (more common in people age 50 and older)
- Family history of retinal detachment
- Previous retinal detachment or tears
- Previous eye injury
- Previous eye surgery such as Cataract Surgery
- Previous severe eye disease
- Extreme myopia (nearsightedness)
Causes of a Retinal Detachment
A retinal detachment occurs when fluid from the eye escapes through a tear in the retina, and builds up between the back of the eye and the retina. The retina detaches from the back of the eye when the buildup accumulates. The detachment can be partial and localized at first and if left untreated can become completely detached.
Symptoms & Detection. Retinal Tears/Retinal Detachment
There is no way to predict who might develop a retinal tear or when it might occur and in some cases, a retinal tear may form without any noticeable symptoms. The most common signs and symptoms of retinal tears include:
- Sudden appearance of floaters
- Black spots in field of vision
- Flashes of light (Photopsia)
- Blurry vision
- Darker/dimmer vision
- Loss of peripheral vision
A retinal tear can be detected during an eye examination when the pupils are dilated and if a retinal tear is present, treatment will be performed without delay to prevent a retinal detachment.
Treatment for Retinal Tears
Some tears do not require treatment and they can ‘heal’ themselves under close supervision of the Ophthalmologist. Retinal tears are typically treated with laser or a freezing procedure.
- Laser Photocoagulation: A laser is used to create small burns around the retinal tear. As the burns heal a scar is created around the tear that seals it down. This is the most common way we treat retinal tears.
- Cryopexy: Sometimes blood is associated with a retinal tear impeding a good view of it. In these cases it may be difficult to apply laser around the tear and cryopexy may be performed instead. A cryoprobe is pressed on the outside of the eye overlying the tear. Once activated the probe becomes very cold and causes a “freeze burn” around the tear. The residual scarring seals the tear.
Treatment is performed in an office setting and is very effective and safe.
Treatment for Retinal Detachment
In the event of a retinal detachment, eye surgery will be required very shortly after the diagnosis.
The type of surgery will depend upon the extent and severity of the detachment but a number of treatment options are available. Cryotherapy (Cryopexy) or laser therapy (photocoagulation) can be used to help weld the detached portion of the retina back in place. Retinal detachment may also be treated through the use of a gas bubble injected into the eye to help push the detached tissue back in place. Other procedures include indenting the surface of the eye to press the retina back into position (scleral buckling), and replacing the vitreous gel in the eye (vitrectomy).
Retinal Detachment/ Retinal Tear Summary
In the event that a person experiences Floaters or Flashes or sudden changes in your vision it is advisable to consult an Ophthalmologist without delay. Waiting can have serious ramifications. The Eye Doctors at SoCal Eye have been treating Retinal Tears and Retinal Detachments for over 50 years. Schedule an Appointment today at LAKEWOOD (562) 531-2020 | LOS ALAMITOS (562) 598-7728 or send us an Online Consultation Request