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Frequently asked questions & answers about Lasik & Cataracts
Frequently asked questions & answers about Glaucoma & Retinal Detachment
Frequently asked questions & answers about Refractive eye laser surgery
Retinal Detachment

Click on a question below to see the answer.

What is a retinal tear?

When the vitreous separates from the retina, in some eyes it may tear the retina. These tears are often small and located near the front of the retina. The first symptoms produced by a retinal tear are flashes and/or floaters. The
next symptom is of a curtain defect appearing before the eye. This may progress to decreased vision.

These symptoms are an emergency and require an ophthalmologist opinion as soon as possible. Anyone with flashes or the sudden onset of a new floater (or floaters) should be examined promptly by an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist will search carefully for retinal tears.

What is a retinal detachment?

A retinal detachment is a separation of the retina from the back wall of the eye. When there is a tear of the retina, liquid from the vitreous may pass through the tear, and detach/pull off the retina. As the fluid accumulates, the retinal detachment becomes larger. Detached areas of the retina lose their vision.

What are the symptoms of a retinal detachment?

Most people notice floaters and flashes before the retina detaches. As the detachment occurs, a gradually enlarging dark area may be seen. Some people have compared this to a curtain coming down, or a shade being drawn in front of the eye. The dark area may begin in any part of the field of vision. If the dark area reaches the centre of the field of vision, the eye will not be able to see fine detail.

Who may get a detached retina?

Although anyone may get a retinal detachment, they are far more common in some groups. These include short sighted people, those over 50, those who have had significant eye injuries, and those with a family history of retinal detachments.

How are retinal tears and detachments treated?

Retinal tears with minimal or no detachment may be treated with laser or freezing (cryopexy) procedures. Most retinal detachments require surgery to reposition the separated retina against the back wall of the eye. There are several methods in use today. The type of surgery used depends on the type and extent of detachment, and the
preference of the patient and retinal surgeon.

Scleral buckling is the most common operation for a detached retina. In this procedure, the causative retinal tear or tears are located and treated. A flexible piece of rubber is then sewn to the sclera (white of the eye) to support
the area of tears and detachment. Fluid may be drained from under the detached retina.

Pneumatic retinopexy is another method for retinal detachment repair. It is not suitable for all types of detachment. In this technique, the causative tear or tea are identified and treated. A bubble or a special gas is then injected into the eye. The gas is used to push against the area of the retinal tear(s).

Vitrectomy is another surgical method to treat some types of retinal detachment. When a vitrectomy is performed the jelly in the eye is removed by inserting small instruments into the eye through three small incisions. Once the jelly is removed the retinal holes and detachment can be treated from the inside of the eye. It is usually used for detachments with unusual or difficult features, such as very large tears, scar tissue on the retina, excessive blood in the vitreous, or detachments that failed by other methods. These difficult detachments may require that a special gas or silicone oil be
placed in the eye. The gas absorbs on its own. The silicone oil will usually need to be removed with another small operation in 3 - 6 months.

Will I get my vision back if I have detached retina?

With current methods, most simple retinal detachments can be repaired. Repeat surgery may often be required for more complex retinal detachments. Because the detachment may damage the retina, most people do not get back perfect vision. If the macula (the central, most sensitive part of the retina) was not affected by the detachment, about 2 out of 3 eyes will get back reading vision. If this area was affected, only about 1 out of 3 eyes will get back reading
vision i.e. even the use of spectacles will not correct the damage that has occurred to the retina.