Retinal detachment is a condition where the light sensitive back surface of the eye tears away from the inside of the eye. The retina is a thin coating of tissue on the inner walls of the eye, and is the tissue in the eye that contains photoreceptors and is responsible for vision.
Retinal detachments are most likely to occur in cases of trauma and when the vitreous gel (the gel that fills the inside of the eye) deteriorates or detaches.
Retinal detachments can be mild in severity, such as a small tear or holes, but can also progress to more serious detachments. If a tear, hole, or other injury allows fluid to get under the retina, the entire retina can peel away from the inner walls of the eye, causing irreversible blindness. This process is much like wallpaper which loosens and peels away from the wall.
Because of the serious nature of retinal detachments and the potential for irreversible blindness, diagnosis and treatment is required immediately. Typically the longer a retinal detachment goes untreated, the greater the loss of vision. In addition, the length of time the retina is detached is directly related to the amount of vision which can be restored with treatment.
There are specific warning signs which are related to retinal detachment. These are:
1. you see a sudden increase in the number of floaters in your vision.
2. you see flashes of light in your side vision which you can not explain.
3. you notice a shadow, veil or curtain coming over or across your side vision (this could be in any direction).
4. you notice that lines which should look straight (such as a door frame or street curb) look bent or wavy.
5. you notice that your central vision is blurry, and it can not be improved in any way (either by moving closer, moving farther away, cleaning your glasses, rubbing your eyes, etc.).
IF YOU NOTICE ANY SIGN OF RETINAL DETACHMENT, EVEN IF IT IS ONLY ONE OF THE SIGNS MENTIONED ABOVE, YOU SHOULD CONTACT OUR OFFICE (OUR AFTER HOURS NUMBER IS 907-373-0225) OR OTHER EMERGENCY SERVICE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY!
Most retinal tears and retinal detachments will require surgery within 24 hours, but small holes without symptoms may be followed closely by sequential retinal exams, including retinal photography. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, the long term prognosis is good, but delayed treatment can often result in severe and permanent vision loss.