One of the most common, serious vision threatening problems is a detached retina. The retina is the thin transparent lining on the inside of the eye. If the eye is like a camera, the retina is the film inside. It contains rods and cones which sense the light and send messages to the brain via the optic nerves.
Several factors may predispose one to developing a retinal detachment.This list includes age, nearsightedness, trauma to the eye, family history of similar problems, or previous eye surgery. Retinal detachments usually start as a small tear or hole in the retina. These are frequently created by the vitreous pulling on the retina.
  The vitreous is the gel-like material filling the inner cavity of the eye which shrinks with age thereby causing traction on the retina. Once the tear is present water may seep through and peal the retina off. Not all tears develop into detachments,but it is difficult to tell which ones will and which ones won't. Symptomatic tears cause FLASHES, which are the result of vitreous traction on the retina and FLOATERS, which consist of blood and fibrous reorganization in the vitreous. The flashes eventually recede and the blood clears with time, but often some floaters persist even long after healing has taken place.
   If a detachment occurs a CURTAIN comes over a portion of the vision. If left untreated blindness is the certain result.
  Treatment consists of a careful examination of the retina and vitreous looking for tears before they become a detachment. At this point the tear can be sealed with either a LASER or freezing instrument. These methods "weld" the retina to the deeper layers of the eye, thus preventing the detachment.
  If a detachment has formed, a surgical repair must be undertaken. In addition to sealing the holes, fluid may be drained, a buckle placed to reapproximate the outer wall of the eye to the retina, or a vitrectomy may be needed to restore vision. Rarely is a second procedure required.The results of these procedures using modern techniques and instruments are very encouraging. Over 98% of tears can be successfully sealed. If a surgery is needed to repair a detachment, the rate of reattachment is very high. Restoration of vision after detachment surgery may take months and is sometimes unpredictable.

© nholland 2002