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Retinal detachment is a potential medical emergency that can be corrected if it is caught early. However, if medical treatment is delayed too long, then it could lead to permanent damage that affects your sight or even causes blindness in the affected eye.
This article explores the symptoms that precede a retinal detachment emergency to help you take the necessary steps to save your vision if you suspect that you’re experiencing a detachment.

Warning Signs of a Detached Retina

The retina is in the back of the eye, processes light and sends messages to the optic nerve. It is positioned in the back of an eye and sits atop supportive tissue. When it rips or tears, it is at risk of detaching from the back of the eye, which impacts the ability to see.

Simply put, if a healthy retina isn’t attached and in the proper position, messages aren’t sent to the optic nerve and the eye cannot see. And, if the retina cannot be repaired and detached, then the damage can be permanent.

There are three types of retinal detachment:

  1. Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment occurs when a hole in the retina develops over time. The damage allows the vitreous gel to leak under the retina, build up and pull the retina away from the layer beneath it and eventually detach. This is the most common form and is more likely to occur if you’re extremely nearsighted or have had cataract surgery.
  2. Tractional retinal detachment is when scars on the retina pull it away from the layer under it. This usually happens in people with diabetes or damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
  3. Exudative retinal detachment is an uncommon form and occurs when fluid collects under the retina without creating a tear. This type of detachment is associated with an eye injury, inflammatory and kidney diseases and high blood pressure.

In addition to some medical conditions, like diabetes, eye damage, kidney disease, and high blood pressure, you may also be susceptible to a detached retina if you have a family member who has experienced a detached retina or are over the age of 50.

The symptoms are painless, but according to the Mayo Clinic, the following warning signs may appear before a retinal tear:

  • Flashes of light in the field of vision
  • Floaters that appear suddenly
  • A shadow across the field of vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Worsening peripheral vision

Do not delay getting medical treatment if you experience one or more of the symptoms above.

Retinal Detachment Diagnosis and Repair

There are two methods your eye doctor may use to diagnose your issue:

  • Examine the back of the eye with an ophthalmoscope, which detects tears or a detached retina
  • Ultrasound may be used if your eye has been bleeding to better examine the retina

Surgery is the way to repair detachment and retinal tears. According to the National Eye Institute, a common treatment for retinal holes are laser surgery or a treatment called “cryopexy” that freezes tears to reattach the retina to the underlying tissue. Both are typically performed in our ambulatory surgery centers. The following three methods may be used to repair the damage:

  1. Pneumatic retinopexy is a procedure where the retina specialist injects a gas bubble into your eye. The bubble helps moves the detached retina back into place. Once in place, the retina may be secured with laser and or cryopexy.
  2. A scleral buckle is a silicone band attached around the equator of the eyeball. It indents the wall of the eye pushing it against the retina  Once in place, cryopexy or laser may be used to re-attach the retina.
  3. Vitrectomy is surgery to remove some or all of the vitreous humor from the eye.  Your doctor may do a vitrectomy to make it easier to view and repair your retina including the macula. After the vitreous is removed it is often replaced with saline solution.

Following surgery to correct a retinal detachment emergency, discomfort is common in the repaired and healing eye. However, it’s worth noting that the NEI reports that 90 percent of patients who experience a retinal tear can be successfully treated. It may take more than one treatment or several months of healing, and the ideal outcome cannot always be guaranteed.

The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about your chances for success.

Schedule an Exam with a Retinal Specialist Near You

If you have symptoms that suggest your retina may be detaching, contact an eye doctor immediately.

A specialist will give you a proper examination and provide treatment.

If you’re looking for a retinal specialist in your area, contact Southwestern Eye Center to schedule a consultation today.