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Retinal Detachment

A retinal detachment can cause significant vision loss and is a medical emergency. It occurs when the light sensitive layer (the retina) on the back inner wall of the eye becomes separated from its underlying supportive tissue. It is often caused by holes or tears in the retina, by trauma, by medical conditions such as diabetes and even because of ocular tumors. Sometimes it occurs after cataract surgery. Patients with higher levels of myopia(nearsightedness) are at higher risk of detachment. The retina cannot function when it becomes detached and unless promptly repaired, permanent vision loss may result. Part of every full eye exam done at Giddens Optometry is a manual examination of the peripheral retina. This is done to try and find any weak parts of the retina that could predispose a retina detachment. There is no instrument on the market that can examine the peripheral retina as completely as a manual exam which is why it is our standard of care.

Detached Retina Signs & Symptoms

Signs can occur gradually as the retina pulls away from the supportive tissue, or they may occur suddenly if the retina detaches suddenly. No pain is associated with retinal detachment. If you experience any of the signs below, consult your eye doctor (link to doctor bios) right away. Immediate treatment increases your odds of regaining lost vision.

  • The sudden appearance of many floaters – tiny specks that seem to drift through your field of vision
  • Flashes of light in one or both eyes – most of the time flashes and floaters do not signify a retinal detachment but sometimes a retina can detach within a few days after these signs appear
  • Sudden blurred vision
  • Gradually reduced peripheral vision
  • A curtain-like shadow over your field of vision

Treatment of Retinal Detachment

If the detachment is not too large, sometimes a gas bubble is used to press the retina back against the inner wall of the eye and then laser is used to make it bond. Surgery is usually required to repair a larger detachment. Both procedures are performed by an ophthalmologist with advanced training in the treatment of retinal disorders. Surgical reattachment of the retina isn’t always 100% successful. The degree of success depends on the location, cause, and extent of the retinal detachment. Generally, visual outcomes are better if surgery is performed promptly which is why it is always viewed as an emergency situation.


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