Symptoms of a retinal detachment or tear include suddenly see flashing lights in one or both eyes, experience an increase or onset of floating spots or hair-like objects, or have a shadowy curtain covering a portion of your vision. These are all symptoms of a potentially serious problem, a torn or detached retina. It’s critical that you see an ophthalmologist right away, as it has the potential to quickly lead to vision loss.
So what causes a retinal tear?
As we age, the vitreous tends to shrink away from the retina in the back of the eye, like Jell-O left too long in a bowl. If the vitreous pulls away too fast, it can tear the retina. Retinal tears have a higher chance of leading to a detached retina as vitreous fluid leaks through the tear and lifts the retina off the back of the eye.
If the retina does become detached, it may have to be reattached surgically, before the tear can be sealed. There are a few ways to do this. First is pneumatic retinopexy. A bubble of gas is injected into the eye, which pushes on the retina and thereby seals the tear. Second, is a procedure called scleral buckle, sort of like a tiny splint, in which the vitreous fluid is drained out from under the retina, and then a piece of flexible silicone is sewn onto the outer wall to support the tear while it heals. The third option is vitrectomy surgery to remove the vitreous and replace it with a bubble of gas. In time, the body’s own fluids will slowly fill in the bubble.
If you ever experience any of the above symptoms, do not delay seeking an ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room right away.