Retinal detachment describes an emergency situation in which a critical layer of tissue (the retina) at the back of the eye pulls away from the layer of blood vessels that provides it with oxygen and nourishment.
Retinal detachment leaves the retinal cells lacking oxygen. The longer retinal detachment goes untreated, the greater your risk of permanent vision loss in the affected eye.
Fortunately, retinal detachment often has symptoms that are clear warning signs. Early diagnosis and treatment of retinal detachment can save your vision. If you suspect you may have a retinal detachment, contact an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) as soon as warning signs appear.
Retinal detachment describes an emergency situation in which a critical layer of tissue (the retina) at the back of the eye pulls away from the layer of blood vessels that provides it with oxygen and ...
Retinal detachment itself is painless, but retinal detachment warning signs and symptoms almost always appear before it occurs or has advanced. Retinal detachment symptoms may include:
When to see a doctor
Retinal detachment can occur as a result of:
How retinal detachment occurs
Reasons for holes or tears include:
Aging-related retinal tears that lead to retinal detachment
As the vitreous separates or peels off the retina, it may tug on the retina with enough force to create a retinal tear. Left untreated, fluid from the vitreous cavity can pass through the tear into the space behind the retina, causing the retina to become detached.
PVD can cause visual symptoms. You may see flashes of sparkling lights (photopsia) when your eyes are closed or when you're in a darkened room. New or different floaters may appear in your field of vision.
Anatomy of the eye
Your eye is a complex and compact structure measuring about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. It receives millions of pieces of information about the outside world, which are quickly processed by ...
The following factors increase your risk of retinal detachment:
Preparing for your appointment
See an ophthalmologist if you have any sudden changes in your vision. If he or she suspects or concludes you have a retinal tear or retinal detachment, you will likely be urgently referred to an ophthalmologist who is also a retinal specialist.
Because there's often a lot of ground to cover at your appointment, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready and what to expect from your doctor:
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For retinal detachment, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor may use the following tests, instruments and procedures to diagnose retinal detachment:
Treatments and drugs
Surgery is almost always used to repair a retinal tear, hole or detachment. Your ophthalmologist can tell you about the various risks and benefits of your treatment options. Together you can determine what treatment is best for you.
After your procedure, you likely will be advised to refrain from vigorous activity for the next two weeks or so to allow time for the bonds created by your procedure to strengthen.
Surgery doesn't always work to reattach the retina. Also, a reattached retina doesn't guarantee normal vision. How well you see after surgery depends in part on whether the central part of the retina (macula) was affected by the detachment before surgery and, if it was, for how long. Your vision may take many months to improve after repair of a retinal detachment. Some people don't recover any lost vision.
Coping and support
Retinal detachment may cause you to lose vision in the portion of your field of vision that corresponds to the detached part of the retina. Depending on your degree of vision loss, your lifestyle might change significantly. Yet there are many things you can do to cope with impaired vision:
There is no way to prevent retinal detachment. However, being aware of the following typical warning signs of a detached retina could help save your vision:
If you notice any of these signs — particularly if you're older than age 40, you or a family member has had a detached retina, or you're extremely nearsighted — you should seek immediate medical attention.
Last Updated: 2013-03-23
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