Retinal detachment is a serious condition in which the retina starts to pull away from its regular position. If not treated soon enough, retinal detachment can result in loss of vision. Our expert ophthalmologist, Mr Felipe Dhawahir-Scala, discusses the most important facts about retinal detachment and the warning signs you should be aware of.
What are the warning signs of retinal detachment?
The retina is a very thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye that contains light-sensitive cells. When light hits these cells, impulses pass along the optic nerve to the brain where an image is formed.
Retinal detachment is when this layer of tissue pulls away from its normal position, risking the complete loss of vision if treatment is not sought urgently.
These are the main warning signs to be aware of:
- Sudden appearance of floaters or flashes
- Reduced vision
- Blurred vision
- Shadowing or a veil moving across the eyes
Who is at risk of getting retinal detachment?
Retinal detachment occurs most commonly in people over the age of 50, therefore age is a major risk factor that increases one’s chances of retinal detachment, but it can happen at any age.
Additional risk factors include:
- Family history of retinal detachment
- You are extremely short-sighted
- You have had previous instances of retinal detachment
- You have had previous eye surgery, such as cataracts surgery
- You have suffered eye injuries, trauma or other eye diseases
Can you become blind from retinal detachment?
If retinal detachment is not treated quickly, it can cause blindness and it should be treated as a medical emergency. Treatment usually prevents blindness, however, if treatment is sought too late blindness can occur.
Can you repair a detached retina?
With surgery, retinal detachment can be repaired, but surgery will need to be carried out within hours or days of being diagnosed. The severity of the detachment will play a role in what type of procedure your doctor recommends. The aim of surgery is to re-attach the retina. Surgery is carried out usually using local anaesthetic.
Procedures used to treat retinal detachment -
- Removing the jelly-like substance in the eye.
- The vitreous (the gel-like material that fills the eyes) is removed as well as any tissue that is pulling on the retina, and it is replaced with gas which works to smoothen the retina. The gas reabsorbs over a few weeks and gets replaced by fluid produced in the eye.
- To secure the retina in place either laser or cryotherapy (freezing reaction) are used.
Scleral buckling and Cryotherapy:
- Silicone material is sewn onto the whites of your eye (this part is called the sclera) over the detached area.
- This relieves the pressure caused by the vitreous pulling on the retina.
- For severe cases of retinal detachment, an entire scleral buckle around the whole eye might be put in place, without blocking vision, but stopping any further detachment.
- A bubble of gas is injected into the eye to push the retina back into place and laser is applied. This is a relatively quick procedure but the success rate is not as good as vitrectomy or cryotherapy.
Recovery from retinal detachment surgery can take between 2 and 6 weeks and it is normal to have blurry vision afterwards with mild discomfort.
Mr Dhawahir-Scala is an expert in treating retinal detachments with the latest available technology. Please contact Mr Dhawahir-Scala if you are experiencing a sudden onset of visual disturbance with floaters and flashing lights which are important warning signs compatible with retinal detachment.