TEARING AND DETACHMENT OF THE RETINA

The tearing and detachment of the retina, the sensory tissue that lines the back of the eye, can have serious consequences for vision. The detached or torn portions then lose their sensitivity to light and no longer transmit the visual information.

It is called tearing when the damaged tissues of the retina remain in place on the other layers of cells, and it is called detachment when liquid infiltrates and separates the different layers of the retina, which breaks the nerve fibers and damages the good functioning of the cells.

The retina can tear for a variety of reasons, including after an impact or because of narrowing of the vitreous body – the gelatinous fluid in the center of the eyeball – which detaches by pulling on the retina.

Although anyone can have retinal detachment, this condition occurs more frequently in some people, such as those with advanced myopia, who are 50 years of age or older, who have severe eye damage or who have severe eye problems.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

The common signs and symptoms of retinal tearing or detachment are:

  • the unexpected appearance of floating bodies;
  • a sudden appearance of flashes;
  • a visual field that darkens;
  • Headaches and migraines, often on one side of the head only.

ASSESSMENT AND TREATMENTS

After dilating the pupils with drops, the optometrist conducts an examination of the fundus for signs of damage or pathologies in the vitreous and then the retina. Thanks to the technologies now available, the optometrist takes pictures of the retina and the fundus to better evaluate the tissues and follow the evolution of the pathology.

If the retina is intact, it is neither torn nor detached; it is a sign that only the vitreous body has abnormalities. This case does not require immediate treatment, and the optometrist will set up an appointment a few weeks later to follow the evolution. On the other hand, if the central portion of the retina is affected, there will be a loss of perception of the details (visual acuity), and if the peripheral portion of the retina is affected, there will be a loss of the visual field. In these cases, the optometrist will then refer the patient to an ophthalmologist, a specialist in ocular diseases.

There are different treatments that vary depending on the type, location and extent of detachment, the state of health of the patient and even the preferences of the surgeon. Some types of retinal tears do not require immediate treatment. Nevertheless, most of the detachments of the retina require surgery to re-glue the different layers of the cells.

Nowadays, nearly nine out of ten retinal detachments can be corrected. Unfortunately, since detachment damages the cells of the retina, most patients do not recover perfect vision.

FOLLOW-UP WITH THE OPTOMETRIST

If you notice floating bodies or flashes, it is very important to be examined by an optometrist, even if they disappear within a few days or weeks; a tear or detachment of the retina may be the cause.

Myopic people have a higher risk of retinal detachment than others, especially when they have severe myopia, but they are not the only ones. The operation of the cataract may also increase the risk of retinal detachment. It is still better to have surgery, rather than let a cataract evolve.

Finally, eye trauma, reverberation of the sun, or severe lighting is risk factors that can cause detachment in susceptible individuals.

Ophthalmologists carefully monitor all people at risk, to detect retinal abnormalities, such as a tear, which can be treated with a laser. This can prevent retinal detachment. In some case, the retinal detachment treatment is also suggested.

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