Retinal Detachments/Tears

Retinal Surgery

Retinal laser surgery by Dr. Alan Downie is performed as a treatment for a variety of retinal problems including Diabetic Retinopathy, Age-related Macular Degeneration and tearing of the retina. Laser surgery is virtually painless and performed in our office while you remain awake and comfortable. If you or someone in your family suffers from vitreo-retinal diseases of the eye we can provide the care needed to appropriately treat this condition.

Retinal Detachment

The retina is the light-sensitive inner surface of the eye. It is responsible for gathering light that enters the eye and sending it to the brain via the optic nerve. The "red eye" effect we sometimes see in photographs is caused by bright light reflecting off the retina.

Retinal detachment is a condition in which the retina pulls away from the wall of the eye. Initially, most retinal detachments begin small, but can grow worse rapidly if left untreated. It is most common in people with high levels of nearsightedness (myopia) and the elderly.

Retinal detachment should be treated as a medical emergency and treated as soon as possible. An untreated retinal detachment can lead to significant vision loss and blindness.

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Symptoms of retinal detachment

Symptoms include:

  • The appearance of a shade or veil drawn over the eyes.
  • Flashes of light in the peripheral vision.
  • A dark shadow that appears in the peripheral vision (these will often expand to the central field of vision).
  • Sudden increase in floaters, which are small opaque objects in the vitreous fluid that fills the eye—these appear as small, fuzzy objects floating in the field of vision.
  • Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • Visual distortion—straight lines suddenly appear to be curved.
  • Pain or a sensation of pressure or heaviness in the eye.

If you experience these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

Causes of retinal detachment

Retinal detachments are frequently precipitated by injury, either directly to the eye or generally to the head. If you sustain a concussion or trauma to the eye, it is wise to watch for signs of a retinal detachment.

Individuals with severe nearsightedness (myopia) account for nearly 70% of retinal detachments. This is because most nearsighted people have longer eyes than people with normal vision, and the retina is stretched further. Other factors that increase the risk of retinal detachment include cataract surgery and diabetic retinopathy.

Retinal detachment is very often associated with a condition called posterior vitreous detachment. The vitreous humor is the transparent, gel-like fluid that fills the eye. It is attached to the retina, but generally shrinks as we age. In some cases, the level of shrinkage is great enough that the vitreous pulls away from the retina, leaving a gap. Because the vitreous no longer applies outward pressure to this portion of the retina, it is more prone to detachment. Of the symptoms listed above, these are most commonly associated with posterior vitreous detachment:

  • Flashes of light in the peripheral vision.
  • Sudden increase in floaters, which are small opaque objects in the vitreous fluid that fills the eye—these appear as small, fuzzy objects floating in the field of vision.
  • Mild pain or a sensation of pressure or heaviness in the eye.
  • Spotting signs of posterior vitreous detachment early can help prevent a subsequent retinal detachment.In instances where retinal detachment is caused by a tear in the retina, the vitreous sometimes fills in the space behind the detachment, exacerbating the problem.

Treatment of retinal detachment

It is very important to seek treatment as soon as you experience symptoms of retinal detachment. Treatment for this condition depends on the severity of the detachment, whether or not there is an associated posterior vitreous detachment, general eye health and other factors.

Associated Eye Care offers a range of treatments to suit all situations, including retinal laser surgery.

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