As mentioned previously, the retina is the layer furthest at the back of the eye onto which images are focused. Retinal detachment is generally caused by the retina breaking at a point from which it detaches and separates from the rest of the layers of the eye. The initial break is usually the result of a tear or a hole in the damaged area surrounding the central retina that appears following an injury or posterior vitreous detachment. These damaged areas surrounding the retina are “weakened” and can appear in any patient but are more common in those who are short-sighted.
What are the symptoms of retinal detachment?
The tear in the retina will be accompanied by a “flash of light” coming from inside the eye. When the retina moves away from its position, it loses the ability to capture images meaning that the patient will notice a “black area” in their visual field or experience their sight slowly worsening as if a “curtain were being closed”. Central vision is lost when the main area of the retina, known as the macula, comes away. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
Who can suffer from retinal detachment?
Anyone can suffer from retinal detachment but the following factors increase your risk:
Peripheral retinal degeneration.
History of trauma.
Previous high-risk cataract surgery.
Previous retinal detachment.
Family history of retinal detachment.
Patients with these risk factors should undergo a routine examination of the fundus of their eye to identify and treat any damage that would make retinal detachment more likely.
Treating retinal detachment and existing retinal damage
Any existing damage to the retina that could increase its predisposition to retinal detachment (holes or tears in the retina, peripheral retinal degeneration) can be treated using laser photocoagulation. The laser treatment is performed at our clinic and consists of walling off the at-risk area which prevents any detachment of the retina spreading.
If retinal detachment has already occurred then surgery is required with vitrectomy being the most common procedure.