As we have covered in more than a few blog posts here, the retina is a thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye that is vital to clear vision. When light rays are focused by the cornea and lens onto the retina, signals are transmitted to the brain as images. When the retina is detached from the back of the eye, it is separated from its blood supply and no longer functions properly. This condition, referred to as retinal detachment, is serious enough to warrant immediate treatment.
Without this immediate treatment by an eye doctor or other qualified eye care specialist, the issue could cause permanent vision loss.
A Closer Look at Retinal Detachment
Because retinal detachment is painless (surprisingly so, given the implied discomfort of its namesake), most people are not aware it is even occurring – but warning signs almost always appear before it occurs or has advanced. If you notice a sudden onset of floaters (tiny specks that seem to “drift” through the field of vision) in one eye, that could be a sign of a detached retina, as can flashes of light in one or both eyes (a condition known as photopsia), blurred vision, peripheral vision loss or a curtain-like shadow over the vision field.
When it comes to risk factors, extreme nearsightedness (wherein the eye is longer with thinner retinas and, as a result, cannot yield good vision from distances), injuries to the eye, previous surgeries on the eye and family history all play a part.
What’s Important to Know
A detached retina must be reattached as soon as possible – the sooner the retina is treated by an eye care professional, the better the chance of restored vision. There are different types of surgeries that treat detached retinas, usually performed by a retina specialist. Further, there are some cases in which small areas of the retina are torn, and these areas (aptly known as retinal tears or retinal breaks) can lead to retinal detachment.
The Different Types of Retinal Detachment
There are three different types of retinal detachment:
- Rhegmatogenous – Describes a tear or break in the retina which allows fluid to get under it and cause separation from the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which is the layer that nourishes the retina. These types are the most common.
- Tractional – In this type of detachment, scar tissue on the retina’s surface contracts and causes the retina to separate from the RPE. This type is less common.
- Exudative – Frequently caused by retinal diseases including inflammatory disorders and injury/trauma to the eye, this type involves fluid leaking into the area underneath the retina without any tears or breaks in it.
If you notice any of the signs or symptoms we mentioned above, it is imperative that you call your eye doctor immediately to arrange an appointment as soon as possible.