Retinal Disorders

Retinal Tears and Detachments

The retina is the layer that lines the inner surface of the back part of the eye. Light rays are focused at the retina and transmitted to the brain. The retina consists of a multitude of layers with intricate nerve fibers. In a retinal tear or detachment, these layers are separated, causing significant and at times, swift vision loss. A retinal tear or detachment therefore requires immediate medical treatment. The exact procedure used to treat a retinal tear or detachment varies depending on the patient's condition and the type of tear or detachment.

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Normal Retina

The most common form of retinal tears or detachments occurs when fluid seeps through the leaks in the retina. This is often caused by injury, eye surgery, or nearsightedness. Retinal tears or detachments may also occur when the scar tissue from bleeding adheres to the retina and pulls the retina away from the back of the eye; this occurs most frequently in patients with diabetes. In rare cases, a retinal tears or detachments can also be caused by disease-related swelling or bleeding.

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Detached Retina

Symptoms of Retinal Tears or Detachments

Symptoms may include the followings: flashes of light, appearance of irregular particles floating in the vision that are called floaters, wavy or watery-like vision, appearance of a veil or curtain obstructing vision, or a sudden drop in vision. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Early treatment is essential in maintaining and restoring vision.

Retinal Tears Treatments Options

Small and early retinal tears or detachments can often be treated with an in-office laser. The in-office laser, called retinal laser photocoagulation, is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to seal retinal tears or breaks causing the detachment. This procedure is performed with a local or topical anesthetic on an outpatient basis.

More extensive retinal tears or retinal detachments will need to be treated surgically. Depending on the type of retinal tear or detachment, face-down positioning may be needed post-operatively for the retina to reattach. Surgical options may include the injection of a gas or air bubble or a scleral buckle to reattach the retina. The gas or air bubble will slowly be re-absorbed by the eye as the eye heals.

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Scleral Buckle Procedure

A scleral buckle is a thin silicone band that is used to put pressure on the eye to re-attach the retina and help drain the excess fluid from the eye. This procedure is often permanent and is only removed if the area around it becomes infected. These surgeries are usually performed as an outpatient procedure under local or general anesthesia and may be performed in conjunction with vitrectomy (removal of vitreous), cryotherapy (freezing treatment), and/or laser.

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