Detachment of the retina from the outer supportive layer of the eye is a very serious condition. It is caused by a tear in the retina that allows the retina to separate from the eye wall. It is usually an emergency procedure when the tear is large or when the detachment does not involve the macula. In all cases it needs to be repaired. A surgery called scleral buckling with or without vitrectomy is necessary to preserve eyesight. Without surgery vision is usually completely lost.
What is the retina?
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. When light enters the eye, the retina changes the light into nerve signals. The retina then sends these signals along the optic nerve to the brain. Without retina function, the eye cannot communicate with the brain, making vision impossible.
Retinal detachment is often spontaneous or may result from trauma, severe nearsightedness, a thinned retina, or just the normal process of aging that causes small tears in the retina. The tears allow vitreous fluid to leak between the retina and the outer layers of the eye. When the fluid causes enough pressure and the layers split, the end result is retinal detachment. The symptoms may be one or more of the following:
– blurred vision
– flashes of bright light often at the outer edges of vision range (peripheral vision)
– blind spot(s) that are characterized as floaters or specks of dust floating in the eye
– curtain or shade blocking part of the vision
– near or total blindness in the eye
Immediate surgical treatment is necessary – a surgical procedure called scleral buckling often in conjunction with cryotherapy. Laser or vitrectomy surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist in the operating room.