Retinal Tear & Detachment

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Retinal Tear & Detachment


The middle of our eye is filled with a clear gel called vitreous, which is attached to the retina. Sometimes, tiny clumps of gel inside the vitreous will cast shadows on the retina, which may cause you to sometimes see small dots, specks, strings or clouds moving through your vision. These are called floaters. As we get older, the vitreous may shrink and pull on the retina. When this happens, you may notice what look like flashing lights or lightning streaks. These are called flashes.

Usually, the vitreous moves away from the retina without causing problems. However, sometimes the vitreous pulls hard enough to tear the retina in one or more places. Fluid may pass through a retinal tear, lifting the retina off the back of the eye. When the retina is pulled away from the back of the eye like this, it is called a retinal detachment.

How can Retinal Tear & Detachment
be prevented and treated?

A torn retina is a serious problem that can lead to serious loss of vision.  This is when your retina actually has a tear or a hole, and can lead to a more serious condition of a detached retina. A torn retina must be treated right away to avoid further damage. Early signs of a torn retina can be flashing lights or a sudden onset of many new floaters. If you have a shadow appear in your peripheral vision or a gray curtain that covers part of your field of vision, then this is indicative of a retinal detachment, which requires surgery in the operating room.

If your doctor diagnoses a retinal tear, a laser procedure (photocoagulation, also known as laser retinopexy) may be performed. This procedure creates a scar that helps seal the retina to the back of the eye. The scar prevents fluid from traveling through the tear and under the retina, thereby preventing the retina from detaching. This treatment causes little discomfort and may be performed in the office in less than 15 minutes.  Bucks-Mont Eye has the latest technology available to perform laser procedures in the office.

The retina does not work when it is detached, which is why the vision becomes blurry. A retinal detachment is a very serious problem that almost always causes blindness unless it is treated with surgery.  Any sudden onset of floaters, flashes or shadows should prompt you to call your eye doctor as soon as possible.  If you need treatment for a retinal detachment, this will need to be done in a hospital or surgery center, usually as an outpatient procedure.