Retinal Tear and Retinal Detachment
Retinal disorders are conditions that affect the layer of tissue at the back of the eye, known as the retina. This important part of the eye responds to light and passes on images to the brain. All retinal disorders affect your vision in some way, but some can also lead to blindness.
What is a Retinal Tear?
Located at the back of the eye, the retina is attached to the vitreous, the gel-like substance that makes up for most of the eye's volume. Although the vitreous begins as a thick substance with a firm shape, the consistency of the gel changes and becomes thinner and more watery as we age. A change in the shape of the vitreous can cause it to pull away from the retina and leave a tear. A retinal tear leaves the retina unprotected and can allow fluid to travel between the retina and the wall, which may lead to retinal detachment.
Retinal tears may occur in patients with myopia (nearsightedness), as the condition may cause the vitreous to pull away from the retina. Although a retinal tear does not cause pain, patients may experience flashes or floaters in their field of vision, a reduction of vision, a shadow or curtain forming in the peripheral vision, or other vision changes. It is important to see your doctor at the first sign of a retinal tear.
What is Retinal Detachment?
This medical emergency happens when the retina pulls or lifts off of its normal position. It can cause symptoms such as floaters in the field of vision, light flashes and the feeling of a “curtain” in the way of your vision. If not treated right away, a retinal detachment can lead to permanent blindness in that eye.
Retinal detachment is a serious eye condition that occurs when the retina becomes separated from the wall of the eye and its supportive underlying tissue. The retina cannot function when these two layers are detached, and without prompt treatment, permanent vision loss may occur. Retinal detachment can occur from injury to the eye or face, or from very high levels of nearsightedness.
To prevent permanent vision loss, the retina must be quickly reattached. Treatment for retinal detachment can be done through surgery or laser photocoagulation. Photocoagulation seals off leaking blood vessels and destroys new blood vessel growth, allowing the retina to reattach. Pneumatic retinopexy, a procedure that creates a gas bubble within the vitreous gel and then expands to place pressure against the retina, can also help with reattachment.