A detached retina occurs when the retina is pulled away from its normal position in the back of the eye. The retina sends visual images to the brain via the optic nerve. Vision becomes blurred when detachment occurs. A detached retina is a serious problem that can lead to blindness if not treated.
The retina normally lies smoothly and firmly against the inside back wall of the eyeball and functions similarly to the film in the back of a camera. Millions of light-sensitive retinal cells receive optical images, instantly “develop,” and send them to the brain to be seen. If any part of the retina is lifted or pulled away from its normal position, it is considered detached and will result in some vision loss.
A gray curtain or veil moves across your field of vision.
The symptoms described above do not always indicate that you have a detached retina. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your ophthalmologist for a thorough examination.
The vitreous gel is a clear collagen gel that fills the space between the retina and the lens in the eye. The vitreous may pull away from its attachment to the retina at the back of the eye as we age. The vitreous usually separates from the retina without causing any problems. However, sometimes the vitreous pulls so hard that it tears the retina in one or more places, resulting in retinal detachment. Fluid may pass through the retinal tear and lift the retina away from the back of the eye, similar to how wallpaper can peel away from a wall.
A detached retina can happen at any age, but it is more common in middle age and older. Nearsightedness, previous cataract surgery, glaucoma, severe trauma, previous retinal detachment in your other eye, a family history of retinal detachment, and weak areas in your retina visible to your ophthalmologist are all risk factors for retinal detachment.
Pneumatic retinopexy is surgery for a detached retina.
The injection of a gas bubble into the vitreous space inside the eye allows the gas bubble to push the retinal tear back against the eye wall and close the tear. Around the retinal tear, laser or cryosurgery is used to secure the retina to the eye wall. For several days, your ophthalmologist will instruct you to maintain a specific head position. The gas bubble will eventually vanish. This procedure is sometimes performed in the ophthalmologist’s office.
The scleral buckle
To counteract any force pulling the retina out of place, a scleral buckle or flexible band is wrapped around the equator of the eye. The fluid under the detached retina is frequently drained by the ophthalmologist, allowing the retina to return to its normal position against the back wall of the eye. This procedure is usually done as an outpatient procedure in the operating room.
A vitrectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the vitreous gel from the retina. If the vitreous is to be replaced with a gas bubble, this may also be required. The gas bubble is gradually replaced by your body’s own fluids, but the vitreous gel does not return. A vitrectomy is sometimes combined with a scleral buckle.
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