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A detached retina in your eye is a serious condition that requires quick treatment. Symptoms of detached retina are floaters (tiny specks and cobwebs) and bright flashes of light; you also may perceive a clouding effect, as if a gray curtain is pulled in front of your eyes, and shadows in your peripheral vision. Your vision may suddenly become blurry. Symptoms of detached retina do not include pain, but the condition may result from a painful injury.
Retinal detachment means the retina is displaced or separates from its normal position. The retina is a sheet of special cells that sense the images focused on it from the front of the eye. It sends visual information to the brain via the optic nerve. Retinal detachments can often be repaired if you seek medical care as soon as you notice symptoms of detached retina. It is a medical emergency and the sooner you see a doctor, the better. Retinal detachment repairs are one of the most common procedures performed by retinal surgeons.
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Causes of Detached Retina
- In rhegmatogenous detachment, the most common kind, a tear or hole in the retina’s surface allows fluid to get underneath the retina and separate it from the underlying supportive tissues that nourish it.
- In a tractional attachment, scar tissue on the surface of the retina causes it to contract, which pulls the retina free.
- In exudative detachment, fluid buildup caused by disease pulls the retina free. Retinal disease associated with diabetes (diabetic macular edema) can cause a detachment. It’s also a possible complication of cataract surgery.
Detached Retina Risk Factors
Some people are more likely to develop retinal detachment than others. Age is a risk factor, so detachments are more common in older adults. Other risk factors include a a family history of the condition, extreme nearsightedness (myopia), a past eye injury, or a precious retinal detachment.
Treatment for Symptoms of Detached Retina
If you experience symptoms of detached retina, it’s important to seek medical help within 24 hours. Surgery is usually required to reattach the retina. Laser surgery and cryopexy can be performed in a doctor’s office as an outpatient procedure.
- Laser surgery: The laser makes small burns around the retinal tear or hole. Scar tissue from the burns “weld” the retina in place and keep fluid from leaking underneath.
- Cryopexy: The surgeon uses small freezing cold probe to create tiny weld-like scars to secure the retina to its foundations.
The doctor may perform other procedures to help the retina reattach:
- Vitrectomy: The doctor makes an incision in the eye and remove some of the gel-like vitreous in front of the detached retina, replacing it with a gas bubble to push the retina back against the inner wall.
- Scleral banding: In addition to reattaching the retina with laser or cryopexy, the surgeon may install a flexible band on the outside of the eye that pushes the eye wall inward against the damaged retina. If needed, the surgeon may also do vitrectomy.
Prognosis for a Detached Retina
According to the National Eye Institute, 90 percent of retinal detachments and tears can be repaired with one or, if needed, two procedures. It may take a few months before you find out how well the repair has preserved vision. If the repair fails, blindness in that eye will be the result. The outcomes or worst when the macula, the central portion of the retina for detailed vision, detaches. You can improve your odds of preserving vision by seeking medical attention as soon as possible after noticing symptoms of detached retina.