A detached retina is a serious and sight-threatening event, occurring when the retina becomes separated from its underlying supportive tissue at the back of the eye. The retina cannot function when these layers are detached and unless the retina is reattached soon, permanent vision loss may result.
Sudden and/or increased appearance of floaters and flashes of lights can be warning signs of a detached retina. Blurry and poor vision, as well as the appearance of a curtain over the field of vision are also symptoms of this condition.
These signs can occur gradually as the retina pulls away from the supportive tissue, or they may occur suddenly if the retina detaches immediately.
No pain is associated with retinal detachment. If you experience any of the signs, consult your eye doctor right away.
An injury to the eye or face can cause a detached retina. Extreme nearsighted people are also at risk as they have longer eyeballs with thinner retinas that are more prone to detaching.
On rare occasions, a detached retina may occur after LASIK surgery in highly nearsighted people. In a study of more than 1,500 LASIK patients, just four suffered retinal detachment; their pre-LASIK prescriptions ranged from -8.00 D to -27.50 D. Cataract surgery, tumors, eye disease and systemic diseases such as diabetes and sickle cell disease also may cause retinal detachments.
Laser photocoagulation, a method of sealing off leaking blood vessels and destroying new blood vessel growth with a laser beam, is one way to reattach the retina. Some ophthalmologists inject silicone oil into the eye to keep the detached retina in place. A similar treatment is pneumatic retinopexy, in which a bubble of gas is injected into the vitreous humor, the transparent gel filling the eyeball in front of the retina. The gas bubble expands and presses against the retina to hold it against its supportive tissue. Cryotherapy (freezing) or photocoagulation then will permanently reattach the retina.
Sometimes vision lost from a detached retina will return after treatment. The sooner the retina is reattached, the better the chances of regaining vision.