The retina is a thin layer lining the inside of the eye made up of nerve tissue that lines the inside of the eye. It contains more than a million neurons and specialized “vision cells,” which are called photoreceptors. Much like the film in a camera, the retina is essential in capturing visual images.
A retinal detachment occurs when the retinal is separated from the underlying wall of the eye. If left untreated, this separation can result in total, permanent vision loss. There are three types of retinal detachments: rhegmatogenous (due to a tear of hole in the retina), tractional (due to fibrotic bands of scar tissue) and exudative (due to a collection of fluid beneath the retina).
- Rhegmatogenous (due to a tear or hole in the retina)
- Tractional (due to fibrotic bands of scar tissue)
- Exudative (due to a collection of fluid beneath the retina)
Rhegmatogenous detachments occur most commonly and are often spontaneous and unpredictable in origin. When the retina has a small tear or hold, fluid form the vitreous jelly that fills the eye can seep through the hole and behind the retinal.
Much like fluid behind wallpaper, fluid behind the retina causes the remaining retina to detach from the underlying eye wall. Risk factors for rhegmatogenous retinal detachments include extreme myopia or near-sightedness, lattice degeneration (irregularly thinned areas of the retina), posterior vitreous detachments (PVD’s), and a history of previous eye trauma and/or surgery.
Symptoms of Retinal Detachment
Patients with rhegmatogenous retinal detachments often experience symptoms such as an acute onset of flashing lights and/or the sudden onset of floaters (black dots or web-like debris in the vision). Patients can experience a black curtain progressing from the periphery of one’s vision towards the central vision, which corresponds the to the progressive detachment of the retina.
When a retinal detachment is repaired before the central region is detached, the percentage of vision restored is greater. The retina can be reattached, but the sooner this repair is made, the better the outcome. It is important to consult an ophthalmologist quickly if you recognize the symptoms of a retinal detachment. Only an ophthalmologist has the medical background to diagnose a retinal detachment, and only those who specialize in vitreoretinal surgery can perform the repair.
The Treatment of Retinal Detachment at Eye Consultants of Silicon Valley
The main goal of any retinal detachment treatment will be to reattach the retina to the back wall of the eye and repair any holes or tears that were responsible for the detachment. Depending on the type and severity of your retinal detachment, your ophthalmologist may approach the condition in one of several ways:
- Scleral buckle – a silicone band placed outside the eye wall to close the tear
- Vitrectomy – using small instruments to seal the retinal tears or holes
- Pneumatic retinopexy – injected gas bubble to repair the retinal tear
- Laser surgery – used in small detachments to prevent the issue from spreading