Retinal Tear & Detachment

A torn or detached retina is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention to preserve your vision. A retina that is no longer in the correct position can be starved of the nutrients and blood flow that keep it healthy.

About Retinal Tears & Detachments

A retinal tear is a serious condition that needs treatment. It can progress to a retinal detachment that can cause a loss of vision. The most common cause of a retinal detachment is when a tear forms from traction on the retina exerted by the vitreous, the gel inside the eye, as it pulls away from the back of the eye. The process of vitreous shrinkage as we age is normal and usually doesn’t cause problems, but if the symptoms of new floaters or associated flashes are present in your vision, it is important to contact your eye doctor for an appointment as these can be a signal that a tear has formed in the retina.

Retinal Tears

As you age, the vitreous, a gel-like substance in the back of the eye, shrinks and becomes more liquified. As this occurs, an outer cortex or shell, like the skin of a water balloon, remains attached to the retina. Eventually, the cortex of the gel will start to pull away from the back of your eye. As it does, it may tug on the delicate retina tissue where it can be more adherent and cause a tear.

A retinal tear isn’t painful and doesn’t always have obvious symptoms. Important visual symptoms that you may notice include:

  • A sudden increase in floaters or a new, very large floater
  • Flashes or lights going off in your vision
  • Gray or shadowy vision, particularly at the periphery
  • A curtain-like effect coming down or the appearance of a boulder rising up in your vision

Retinal Detachments

A retinal detachment disconnects the retina from the back of the eye and an important cell layer underneath the retina called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) that nourishes it. There are several types of retinal detachments. The most common type begins as a tear or hole that allows liquified vitreous fluid to seep behind the retina. Eventually, the retina loses its hold and lifts out of its proper position.

Once detached, the cells in your retina begin to die, which is why, if you have symptoms of a retinal detachment, you should be evaluated right away. Contact Vance Thompson Vision if you have these symptoms:

Without treatment, a retinal detachment can cause permanent blindness. Early intervention is vital to preserving your vision.

Treatments for Retinal Tears & Detachments

A retinal tear can often be fixed in the clinic with a procedure called a retinopexy. This procedure typically uses a laser to create a seal around the tear to prevent fluid from leaking under your retina. Sometimes a procedure called cryotherapy will be used to create the seal around the tear as well which involves creating a small freeze spot on the retina.

A retinal detachment is more serious. In some cases, an in-office procedure called a pneumatic retinopexy may be possible. Often it has to be repaired with surgery. The specific procedure depends on your medical history and needs. Retinal detachments are addressed using one or a combination of three main ways:

  • Vitrectomy: A procedure that removes the vitreous gel to allow your surgeon to reattach the retina and seal tears and holes.
  • Scleral Buckle: This procedure places a silicone band around the eye for external support on the site of the hole or tear causing the detachment.
  • Pneumatic Retinopexy: A small gas bubble is placed in the eye and allowed to expand. Lasers or cryotherapy (freezing) are used to then seal the edges of a retinal tear once the retina has reattached underneath the bubble.

What to Expect

Vance Thompson Vision has a world-class retina specialist with significant experience caring for patients with a variety of retinal conditions, including tears and detachments.

This condition is sight-threatening, so please call our office as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. We’re here to help and will see you in our clinic as soon as possible.

During your appointment, a number of tests will be performed on your eyes along with dilation. After that, the doctor will meet with you to discuss your diagnosis, which treatments are available, and to help you determine the best next steps.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a detached retina?

A detached retina happens when your retina slips out of its usual place at the back of your eye. It is often preceded by a retinal tear that allows liquified vitreous (the gel in the back of the eye) to seep behind your retina, loosening it.

What causes a detached retina?

Retinal detachments are typically caused by a tear resulting from traction by the gel in the back of the eye. Often this occurs spontaneously and being aware of the signs and symptoms of an early-formed retinal tear are important to be able to get to a retina specialist early and get treated before it progresses to a retinal detachment. More specifically, many patients first develop a retinal tear that allows vitreous fluid to seep behind the retina. The fluid loosens the retina so that it peels off the back of your eye. In rarer cases, a retinal detachment is caused by trauma.

How long can a retinal tear or detachment go untreated?

A retinal tear or detachment should be treated as soon as possible. Contact Vance Thompson Vision for an evaluation if you have signs or symptoms of a retinal detachment.

Is a retinal tear or detachment painful?

Neither a retinal tear nor detachment is painful.

Is treatment for retinal tears or detachments covered by insurance?

Treatment and care of a retinal tear or detachment is usually covered by insurance as it’s generally categorized medically necessary.

Ready for help?

Early intervention truly is the best treatment. Call our friendly, professional team today to schedule your retina consultation.

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