What is Retinal Detachment?
The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye and sends visual messages through the optic nerve to the brain. With retina detachment, the retina is lifted or pulled from its normal position. In some cases, there may be small areas of the retina that are torn. These areas, called retinal tears, can lead to retinal detachment. If not promptly treated, retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.
Types of Retinal Detachment
A tear or break in the retina that allows fluid to get under the retina and separate it from the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), the pigmented cell layer that nourishes the retina. This type of retinal detachment is the most common.
In this type of detachment, scar tissue on the retina’s surface contracts and causes the retina to separate from the RPE.
Mainly caused by retinal diseases, injury or trauma to the eye. In this type, fluid leaks into the area underneath the retina, but there are no tears or breaks in the retina.
Symptoms of Retinal Detachment
Symptoms include a sudden or gradual increase in either the number of floaters and/or light flashes in the eye. Floaters are little “cobwebs” or specks that float around in your field of vision. Another symptom is the appearance of a curtain over the field of vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of a retinal detachment should see an eye care professional immediately.
Treatment for Retinal Detachment
Small holes and tears are treated with laser surgery called cryopexy. During laser surgery, tiny burns are made around the hole to fuse the retina back into place. Cryopexy freezes the area around the hole and helps reattach the retina.
In other cases, a scleral buckle, or tiny synthetic band, is attached to the outside of the eyeball to gently push the wall of the eye against the detached retina. If necessary a vitrectomy may also be performed. During a vitrectomy, the doctor makes a tiny incision in the sclera, or white of the eye. Next, a small instrument is placed into the eye to remove the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills the center of the eye and helps the eye maintain a round shape. Gas is often injected into the eye to replace the vitreous and push the retina back against the wall of the eye to reattach the retina. During the healing process, the eye makes fluid that gradually replaces the gas and fills the eye. With all of these procedures, either a laser or cryopexy is used to fuse the retina back in place.
With modern therapy, over 90 percent of those with a retinal detachment can be successfully treated, although sometimes a second treatment is needed. The visual outcome, however, is not always predictable. The final visual result may not be known for up to several months following surgery.
Even under the best circumstances, and even after multiple attempts at repair, treatment sometimes fails and vision may eventually be lost. Visual results are best if the retinal detachment is repaired before the macula, or center region of the retina, detaches. That is why it is important to contact an eye care professional immediately if you see a sudden or gradual increase in the number of floaters and/or light flashes, or a dark curtain over the field of vision.
What to Expect After Laser Surgery for Retinal Tear or Detachment.
Laser retinal procedures at Wolfe Eye Clinic have high success rates with few complications. However, as with any surgical procedure, one can expect a recovery period and follow certain precautionary measures afterward.
All recipients of laser surgery for retinal tears or retinal detachment are able to go home to relax in the comfort of their own homes. Many will feel like a bright light has been shined in the eye that had surgery. These symptoms and the dilation should wear off over the rest of the day. Most find themselves able to go about their normal daily routines shortly after the procedure. Many patients can return to full activity the very next day.
Precautions to Take After Retinal Tear Laser Surgery
It is important to monitor your vision closely and report changes to your retina surgeon immediately. Your doctor will advise you as to how much physical activity you can pursue immediately after the procedure. You should also keep a lookout for a significant increase in floaters, flashes or loss of peripheral vision. The Wolfe Eye Clinic has doctors on call 24 hours a day to address any emergencies that arise.
Wolfe Eye Clinic has expertise in treating detached retinas. Wolfe Eye Clinic offers complete retina services throughout Iowa, including Ames, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Iowa City, Marshalltown, Ottumwa, Spencer, and Waterloo.
Please contact Wolfe Eye Clinic at 1-800-542-7956 to ask any retinal detachment or other retina disease-related questions or to schedule an appointment with one of our retina specialists: Dr. David Saggau, Dr. Charles Barnes, Dr. Jared Nielsen, Dr. Kyle Alliman, Dr. Alex Kartvelishvili, and Dr. Paul Boeke.