Retinal Detachment: Causes, Types & Treatment

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April 13, 2023

If you constantly notice flashes of light, lots of floaters, and a black spot in your vision, which becomes even bigger after days, don’t ignore it and immediately get your eyes checked. Those are the conditions of a person with a detached retina. 

Retinal detachment is caused when the retina — a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye — becomes detached or separated from the rest of the eye. It is an emergency situation where your retina starts to pull away from its normal position. Retinal detachment may cause a loss of vision in the affected area and can progress to total blindness if left untreated.

What caused retinal detachment?

Understanding the causes of retinal detachment is crucial in identifying and preventing the condition. Retinal detachment can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Age. As we age, the gel-like substance in the eye (vitreous) will become more liquefied, which can pull away from the retina causing it to detach. This usually happens among people who are over 50 years old.
  2. Trauma. A blow to the head or eye can cause the retina to tear as a result of sudden forces, which can pull the vitreous away from the retina or create shearing forces that damage the retina. A direct impact on the eye can also cause a sudden increase in pressure within the eye, leading to a retinal detachment.
  3. Myopia. People who are extremely nearsighted are at a higher risk of retinal detachment because their eyeballs are elongated, causing the retina to become thinner and more stretched out. This can make the retina more susceptible to detaching from the back of the eye.
  4. Diabetes. It is a complication of diabetes that occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina. Over time, the damaged blood vessels can leak blood and fluid into the retina — which can cause the retina to swell and pull away from the back of the eye, leading to retina detaching.
  5. Family history. Individuals with genetic factors are more susceptible to retinal detachment. As such, the connective tissues that keep the retina in place may become weaker due to genetic mutation. Inherited disorders like Stickler syndrome and Marfan syndrome could also heighten the risk of retinal detachment.
  6. Prior surgery. Previous eye surgery can escalate the risk of retinal detachment due to changes in the structure of the eye, such as cataracts or glaucoma surgery. The use of instruments or techniques that can damage the retina — such as laser treatments or cryotherapy — are also contributing factors.
  7. Other underlying medical conditions. Certain medical conditions, such as central serous retinopathy, can cause serious retinal detachment.

Types of Retinal Detachment

There are three primary types of retinal detachment — rhegmatogenous, tractional, and exudative. Each type has different causes and risk factors and requires different treatments. Understanding the type of retinal detachment is essential for effectively managing the condition. 

  1. Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment. This type occurs when a tear or hole in the retina allows fluid to pass underneath, causing the retina to detach from the underlying tissue. The fluid will leak through the tear and accumulate between the retina and the tissue beneath it to push the retina away from the back of the eye.
  2. Tractional retinal detachment. This type occurs when scar tissue on the retina’s surface contracts and pulls the retina away from the underlying tissue. This abnormal tissue growth happens due to a number of conditions, including diabetic retinopathy or trauma to the eye.
  3. Exudative retinal detachment. This type occurs when fluid accumulates beneath the retina without any tear or hole in the retina. It is often caused by leaking blood vessels or swelling due to inflammation, injury, or other medical conditions.

Symptoms of retinal detachment

Although retinal detachment is pain-free, it is a serious eye condition that requires prompt medical attention to prevent permanent vision loss. Be aware of retinal detachment symptoms as they can occur suddenly and without warning. The symptoms of retinal detachment can include:

 

  1. Noticing flashes of light in the affected eye.
  2. Seeing floaters, which are small specks or particles that float across the field of vision.
  3. Experiencing blurred vision or a loss of visual acuity.
  4. Reduced or losing peripheral vision, or having a curtain-like shadow in the visual field.
  5. Rapid beginning of symptoms. These symptoms may occur suddenly, usually without warning. 

Diagnosis & treatments of retinal detachment

An ophthalmologist or a retina specialist will perform a thorough eye exam to diagnose a retinal detachment. The diagnostic process may include any of the subsequent steps such as assessing medical history, checking visual acuity, performing dilated eye exams, using ultrasound, or conducting light waves test (OCT).

After being diagnosed, prompt treatment is required to prevent further vision issues. Retinal detachment treatment may involve surgery, such as laser surgery, pneumatic retinopexy, or scleral buckle surgery — depending on the severity, underlying cause, and location of the detachment.

    1. Laser surgery. This surgery for retinal detachment is a non-invasive treatment that uses a laser to create small burns around the retinal tear or hole. The burns cause the retina to scar which seals the retina to the underlying tissue, preventing further detachment.
    2. Pneumatic retinopexy. This procedure involves injecting air or a gas bubble into the vitreous cavity of the eye. The gas bubble aids to push the detached retina against the wall of the eye, allowing it to reattach.
    3. Scleral buckle surgery. This retinal detachment surgery involves placing a silicone band around the eye and securing the sclera — the white outer layer of our eyeball — with sutures. The buckle pushes the wall of the eye inward, which helps to support the detached retina and allows it to reattach to the underlying tissue.
    4. Vitrectomy. This is a surgical procedure that involves draining the vitreous gel from the eye and replacing it with air, gas bubble, or silicone oil. This helps to push the detached retina against the wall of the eye and allows it to reattach.

 

Consult your optometrist as they will provide you with a more detailed explanation of each diagnostic process and course of treatment.

Final Say

Most treatments for retinal detachment often succeed especially if the detachment is identified early. So, don’t turn a blind eye if you’re exhibiting the abovementioned symptoms of retinal detachment.

Visit VISTA Eye Specialists to get your eyes checked by our qualified and experienced doctors. They will carefully assess your eye condition so that you can acquire a comprehensive understanding of the condition and appropriate treatment that is tailored for you can be introduced. 

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