Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment constitutes a medical emergency. A retinal detachment occurs when the retina physically pulls away or separates from the structure of the inner eye. With appropriate and immediate surgical treatment, the retina can be re-attached and prevent permanent vision loss.

Unlike the occasional floater mentioned previously, the sudden onset of many floaters, sudden flashes, clouded vision, and blurred vision could indicate possible retinal detachment. If these symptoms occur, you will likely recognize them as something that needs immediate treatment.

Detached retinas can occur for several reasons – trauma, advanced diabetes, or an inflammatory eye disorder. Natural changes to the eye due to aging may also cause retinal detachment. In addition to age, other risk factors for developing a detached retina include: previous detachment in one eye; family history; nearsightedness; previous eye surgery (e.g., cataract removal), injury or trauma; and weak areas of the peripheral retina.

The only way to repair a detached retina is with surgery. Ophthalmologists commonly use one of several corrective procedures and sometimes in conjunction with other treatments.

Surgery is the only effective means for repairing a detached retinal. Often a retinal tear or hole is a precursor to an actual detached retina, and repair of the tear or hole will likely result in little or no loss of vision.

With current technology and surgical procedures, over 90 percent of those with a retinal detachment can be successfully treated. The best results occur when the detached retina is repaired before the macula (the center of the retina responsible for sharp, detailed vision) detaches. Even though most detached retinas can be successfully repaired, the actual visual outcome may not be known for several weeks or months following surgery – thus underscoring the need for immediate treatment if you have any concerns.

Treatment

There are various surgical options for treating and repairing retinal detachment. The method chosen is based on the nature of each individual situation. Our team of highly trained and skilled eye surgeons will thoroughly explain treatment procedures, outline risks and benefits, and answer your questions. Options may include:

Laser surgery (photocoagulation). In this procedure pulses or beams of laser energy are directed through a special device to specific spots around the retinal tear. The object of this procedure is to “weld” or “tack” the torn retinal to the underlying tissue, thus preventing further tearing and damage.

Freezing (cryopexy). In the procedure the surgeon uses an extremely cold surgical probe to freeze the retina around the site of the retinal tear. After a local anesthetic is applied to the eye, the freezing probe is applied to the outer surface of the eye over the retinal damage, creating a delicate scar that secures the retina to the wall of the eye.

Depending on the nature of the damage, other more involved surgical options may be used in conjunction with laser surgery or freezing. These include pneumatic retinopexy, scleral buckling, and vitrectomy. While the general outcome of these various procedures is repair of the retina, outcomes, prognosis, recovery, and healing times vary depending on the nature of each case.