Our pair of eyes is one of the organs in the body that is probably the most used, if not abused. It should always be treated with the utmost care and fragility. Sadly, symptoms of its wear and tear are sometimes overlooked and only addressed when the severity of injury or disease has already reached its peak.
Eye floaters, for example, is a symptom of a possible eye condition that a lot of patients do not pay attention to. If this is not checked at an earlier time, chances are this can lead to a much worse state in the future. An eye condition that this can result in is called retinal detachment.
Before diving into the facts of retinal detachment, let us first learn about the retina.
What is the retina?
The retina is a light-sensitive part of the eye that consists of a very thin lining of tissue. It is found inside the back of the eye and is responsible for transmitting light images focused by the eye’s cornea and lens to the brain using electrical signals coursed through the optic nerve.
Injury to the retina can cause blindness.
Retinal detachment is an injury that can cause serious damage to the eyes. This can happen suddenly, especially when symptoms have been lingering without treatment over time. Retinal detachment happens when the retina becomes separated from the core tissue within the eye. Detachments can result in the following damage in the retina:
Breaks, holes, and tears in the retina pave the way for a detachment waiting to happen. When the retina develops a break, hole, or tear, the vitreous gel of the eye becomes loose, passes through the cut, and separates itself from the retina. This separation of the vitreous gel sometimes causes a forceful grip as it pulls away from the retina, resulting in the retinal detachment.
Various signs and symptoms can lead to retinal detachment.
The earliest signs and symptoms of possible damage to the retina are seeing eye floaters and light flashes (photopsia). It is important to get your eyes checked immediately when this happens. If the symptom is not addressed, this can progress to a worse state where the part of the eye’s visual field is already involved. A sign that the damage to the retina is already in an advanced state is when a dark spot or shadow already affects the vision. Allowing the condition to persist can lead to total detachment of the retina, which may result in permanent blindness.
Anyone can develop retinal detachment, but the risks are higher for some people.
The risks of developing retinal detachment are higher for people who:
- Are nearsighted (Myopia)
- Are past the age of 40
- Have the condition passed on in their family line
- Suffered a major eye injury at one time
- Underwent a cataract surgery
- Use medicated eye drops, such as those for glaucoma therapy (Pilocarpine)
Likewise, some eye diseases can lead to retinal detachment. These diseases are:
- Chronic eye inflammation (Uveitis)
- Diabetic retinopathy
- High myopia
- Lattice degeneration of the retina
Retinal detachment treatments and surgery.
Mild to moderate damage to the retina, such as breaks, holes, and tears, can be addressed by laser photocoagulation or cryopexy.
Eye specialists from Asia Retina advice that when retinal detachment has already occurred, surgery is already recommended in order to prevent it from resulting in vision loss. The retinal detachment surgery is performed in order to restore the retina back to its original place.
There are two kinds of eye surgeries that can be done to address a detached retina:
- Pneumatic retinopexy
- Scleral buckle
Pneumatic retinopexy. This surgery involves the use of a gas bubble that is injected into the vitreous space inside the eye causing the retinal tear to be pushed into the back wall of the eye. This surgery is done together with either cryopexy or laser photocoagulation.
Scleral buckle. This surgery is the most used procedure in repairing retinal detachments. This surgery makes use of a flexible silicone band, called the sclera buckle that is placed around the sturdy tissue that shields the eyeball (sclera). This band helps keep the retina in place.
Vitrectomy. Another surgery that is used in treating retinal detachment is a vitrectomy. This procedure involves draining of the vitreous gel, that causes a forceful pull on the retina and replacing it with either oil or a gas bubble to keep the retina in its proper position. A second procedure is usually done when the oil bubble is used in order to remove the fluid from the eye. With gas bubbles, the body’s natural fluids usually replace it over time so there is no need for further surgery. Patients who have undergone a vitrectomy using gas bubbles are advised against flying in an aeroplane or going to places in high altitudes until the bubble has disappeared completely as the pressure caused by increasing altitudes can be dangerous to the eye.
Complications, risks, and side effects following a retinal detachment surgery.
Any operation done to the body is not exempt from possible complications, risks, and side effects that can happen during or after its completion. Surgery done to fix retinal detachments can bring the following complications after:
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- Eye discomfort
- Infection (Endophthalmitis)
Retinal detachment is not preventable, but it can be treated.
Retinal detachment cannot be prevented and people at high risk of contracting this eye condition should take extra careful measures to avoid activities that can cause pressure or shock to the eyes.
For patients who have undergone retinal detachment surgeries, the success rate of restoring the retina back to its proper placement and ability to function is at 80 to 90%. However, there are also cases where the detachment of the retina is beyond repair. This usually happens when scar tissue develops in the back of the eye, thus making it impossible for the retinal to be attached back. This, unfortunately, results in a continuous loss of vision and complete blindness.
To avoid any permanent damage to the eyes, regular visits to your ophthalmologist are highly recommended, especially during the onset of retinal detachment symptoms.