Risk factors. Retinal detachments are more common in people who:
- Are extremely nearsighted
- Have had a retinal detachment in the other eye
- Have a family history of retinal detachment
- Have had cataract surgery
- Have had a severe eye injury
- Take glaucoma medications that make the pupil small (like pilocarpine)
Symptoms of retinal detachment: When the retina becomes detached, it does not function normally and vision becomes blurry. Other symptoms of a retinal detachment include:
- A sudden increase in size and number of floaters
- The sudden appearance of flashes of light
- Development of a shadow in the visual field
- Seeing a gray curtain moving across the field of vision
- A sudden decrease in vision.
In addition to laser photocoagulation or cryopexy to treat the retinal tear, additional measures are necessary if the retina has become detached. Two of the most common surgical measures for retinal detachment are pneumatic retinopexy and placement of a scleral buckle. With pneumatic retinopexy, a gas bubble is injected into the vitreous which applies pressure to the area of the detachment. The scleral buckle is a synthetic band that is attached to the outside of the eyeball which pushes the eye against the retinal detachment. The idea behind both of these procedures is to apply enough pressure to remove the fluid that accumulated beneath the retinal tear and allow the retina to reattach to the underlying layer of tissue. Both of these procedures may require a hospitalization and a period of absolute rest while healing occurs.
Results of treatment: It cannot be overstated that a retinal detachment is a medical emergency and that medical attention should be sought with the first signs that this could be occurring. In the majority of cases, retinal detachment can be successfully treated, but treatment success if often related to how quickly treatment is initiated. Any of the symptoms mentioned---increasing floaters, flashes of light, sudden decrease in vision, etc. ---warrants prompt medical evaluation to determine if this could be due to a retinal tear or detachment.
Sources for article:
Retinal Detachment from the National Eye Institute
Retinal detachment from Mayo Clinic
Retinal Detachment: What Is a Torn or Detached Retina? from the American Academy of Ophthalmology
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Kent Davidson MD - Health Tip Content Editor