Retinal Tears & Detachments
Your retina plays a very important role, as this thin layer of tissue on the back wall of your eye enables vision. When light enters through the eye’s lens, photoreceptor cells react to the light and transform it into electrical signals. These signals then travel along the optic nerve to your brain, where they’re converted into images, allowing you to see.
But certain situations, like aging or injury, may cause your retina to peel away from the eye’s back wall, resulting in a retinal tear, or hole. Serious vision issues can occur, and a retinal detachment may develop, as the entire retina moves out of its proper position. The retina can stop working, leading to significant vision problems and blindness.
Retinal tears and detachments can be major health concerns, requiring immediate treatment and surgery. At Retina Consultants of Charleston, we’re experts at diagnosing and treating these conditions, and if caught early, you can expect vision improvements, with few issues afterward.
Are There Different Types of Retinal Tears And Detachments?
There are actually three specific types of retinal detachments, based on the cause of the condition:
- Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment – The most common retinal detachment form, it results from a small tear or break in your retina.
- Tractional retinal detachment – This type occurs when scar tissue forms on your retina, pulling it away from the back of your eye.
- Exudative retinal detachment– This type develops when fluid builds up behind your retina, but there are no tears or breaks. Instead, if enough fluid gets trapped, your retina can be pushed away from the back of your eye, resulting in a detachment.
What Are The Causes Of Rhegmatogenous Retinal Detachments?
The majority of your eye is filled with the vitreous, or vitreous gel or humor, a clear, jelly-like gel representing about 80 percent of the eye’s total volume. Aside from maintaining the eye’s shape, the vitreous provides a clear, unobstructed pathway for light to reach the retina.
As you age, the vitreous starts to shrink and lose its viscosity, or thickness, and can stick to the retina. A tear may develop, which can create an opening, allowing the vitreous to leak through and get behind the retina. As more fluid seeps in, the retina’s pushed, until it becomes completely detached from the eye’s back wall and moves out of its proper place. Aside from vitreal issues, rhegmatogenous retinal detachments may occur due to myopia (i.e. near-sightedness), eye injuries, and eye surgery.
What Typically Causes A Tractional Retinal Detachment?
Most often, a tractional retinal detachment is due to diabetic retinopathy. With this condition, increased blood sugar, or glucose levels, caused by diabetes, damages the retina’s tiny blood vessels. Scars can form on the retina, and as they grow, they can pull on and detach the retina from the back of your eye.
Therefore, people with diabetes must get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Proper diabetes management — including regularly taking insulin and other medications, staying physically active, eating healthy foods, and avoiding smoking — can help to delay or even prevent vision loss. Aside from diabetic retinopathy, this type of detachment may cause swelling in the eye, as well as eye diseases and infections.
What Typically Causes An Exudative Retinal Detachment?
Generally, an exudative retinal detachment develops due to leaking blood vessels or swelling in the back of the eye. Among the reasons that these situations may occur are:
- Eye injuries or trauma
- Tumors in your eye
- Diseases that cause inflammation inside the eye
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Coats disease, a rare eye disorder
Risk Factors For Torn Or Detached Retinas
Depending on the type of condition and the cause of a retinal tear or detachment, there are various risk factors. Among these are:
- Having a previous retinal tear or detachment in your other eye
- A family history of retinal detachment
- Having weak retinal areas, as seen during an eye exam
- Traumatic eye injury
- Previous eye surgery, such as for cataracts or glaucoma
If you are experiencing a sudden increase in floaters and flashes, shadows or blurriness in your peripheral vision, or a curtain appearing over part of your vision, seek medical care right away. Retinal tears and detachments are medical emergencies that need to be addressed as quickly as possible.
Our office provides on-call service for emergencies, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call (843) 763-4466 and Dr. Alfaro will be contacted immediately.
How Are Retinal Tears and Detachments Diagnosed?
Should you notice any signs of a retinal tear or detachment, you need to quickly schedule an eye exam. The symptoms you observe may be due to a cause other than a tear or detachment. But the sooner you are properly diagnosed, the sooner your retinal specialist can provide the optimal treatment.
Your retina specialist will perform a full examination, including dilation, in which special eye drops are applied to widen your pupil, providing an unobstructed retinal view. They’ll then use a special lens to observe your retina for any changes. Your ophthalmologist may perform scleral depression, a process in which slight pressure is applied to the eye, with the use of a 3-mirror lens. If the retinal view is obstructed, such as from a hemorrhage, or excess bleeding, they may need to conduct an ophthalmic ultrasound for diagnosis.
Retinal Tear and Detachment Treatment Options
For retinal tears, you may have no symptoms, and you can just be monitored. Some tears may even heal on their own. But if treatment is needed, the most common options are laser surgery or cryotherapy, a freezing technique. Performed in-house, both methods effectively seal tears, secure the retina to its proper position, and help prevent full detachments. While you should expect little, if any discomfort, you may be at risk of developing additional, separate tears, so continuous monitoring is important.
Common Retinal Detachment Treatments
Retinal detachments are usually treated surgically, and if performed early on, your chances of experiencing vision improvements increase. However, it may take a while for improvements to appear, and if your retina is too damaged, you may not recover your vision at all. Common surgical procedures include:
- Scleral Buckle – With this procedure, a flexible piece of material is implanted to push the sclera, the eye’s white part, against the retina, securing the retina in its proper place. Your surgeon will also remove any vitreal liquid that has seeped under the retina.
- Pneumatic Retinopexy – Performed in conjunction with laser therapy or cryotherapy, this procedure involves a gas bubble being injected into the eyeball’s vitreous cavity. The torn retina is pushed so it closes, and as you heal, new fluid is produced to fill the eye.
- Vitrectomy – This procedure, which involves the removal of the vitreous gel, enables the surgeon to repair the detached retina or remove the force pushing it out of place. The vitreous gel is usually replaced with a gas bubble.
Schedule a Consultation For Retinal Tears or Detachments in South Carolina
To properly diagnose and treat a torn or detached retina, a skilled, experienced team of retinal specialists can make the difference. If you have any questions or concerns, contact Retina Consultants of Charleston for an appointment.