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Retinal Detachment

Retinal Detachment

A retinal detachment will effect one out of every 10,000 people each year in the United States. It is a serious eye problem that may occur at any age although usually in middle-aged or older individuals. A retinal detachment is more likely to develop in people who are nearsighted or those with relatives who have had a detachment. A hard blow to the eye can cause a detachment as well. If not treated early, a retinal detachment may lead to permanent loss of vision.

Symptoms of a retinal detachment include noticeable floaters or light flashes, wavy or water lines in their overall vision or the appearance of a dark shadow in some part of their side vision. Further development of a detachment will blur central vision and create significant sight loss in one eye. If the detachment occurs suddenly, a patient may experience a total loss of vision in one eye.

Small tears or holes in the retina cause most retinal detachments. Normal aging can sometimes cause the retina to thin and deteriorate, but more often shrinkage of the clear gel-like substance which fills the center of the eye is responsible for deterioration and retinal tears.

Once a retinal tear is present, watery fluid from the eye may pass through the hole and cause separation from the retina and the back of the eye. The part of the retina that is detached will not work properly and you will notice a blur or a blind spot.

If the retina is torn and not yet detached, a laser may be used to place small burns around the edge of the tear. This produces scars that seal down the edges of the tear and prevent fluid from passing through. The same results can be accomplished by freezing the back wall of the eye behind the retinal tear.

Should a detachment be present, surgical treatment becomes necessary to save sight in the eye. Over 90% of all retinal detachments can be reattached by modern surgical techniques. Occasionally, more than one operation may be required.

Patients with symptoms of retinal detachments require prompt attention by an ophthalmologist. It is important for persons with significant nearsightedness or with family histories of retinal detachments to have periodic eye examinations so that changes in the vitreous or retina may be diagnosed and potential retinal detachments prevented.

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