Retinal detachment is a major vision problem that should never be ignored. This condition occurs when the retina separates from the tissue behind it and, if left untreated, can lead to complete blindness.
For this reason, all patients should spend time learning about some of the most common warning signs of retinal detachment. If this condition is diagnosed early on, you may be able to preserve your eyesight. Here’s a closer look at some of the warning signs of this serious vision problem.
What is a Retinal Detachment?
Retinal detachment occurs when vitreous jelly becomes detached from the retina and the vitreous becomes firmly attached to the retina in one place. This pull can cause a tear in the retina, which can later lead to retinal detachment.
The vitreous becomes more fluid with age and pulls it away from the retina. This process is called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). In the vast majority of cases, this separation does not damage the retina and there is no retinal tear, although the patient can suddenly experience swimmers and flashes of light. If a retinal tear is diagnosed early, a retinal specialist can often seal the tear with in-office laser treatment and help the patient avoid vision loss.
The trauma can also cause the vitreous to pull on the retina, which can lead to retinal detachment. Retinal detachments are emergency situations that usually require surgical repair in the operating room. This is an outpatient procedure performed by an experienced retinal surgeon. The good news is that the success rate at repairing a recent uncomplicated retinal detachment is 90%. If the retina can be repaired before the visual center is affected, very good postoperative vision is often achieved.
The retinal detachment itself is painless. But warning signs almost always appear before it happens or has progressed, such as:
- The sudden appearance of many floaters – tiny spots that seem to be moving in your field of vision.
- Flashes of light in any one or both the eyes (photopsia)
- Blurred vision
- Gradually reduced side (peripheral) vision
- A shadow over your field of vision
You are at a higher risk of developing retinal detachment if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Myopia (myopia)
- Family history of retinal detachment.
- Trauma – Past blunt injury to the eye
- Cataracts, glaucoma, or other previous eye surgery – About one percent of patients who have had cataract surgery will eventually develop retinal detachment.
- Anterior retinal detachment in the other eye
Advanced Stages of Retinal Detachment
One of the reasons retinal detachment often goes untreated is because it isn’t painful. It can be caused by a painful injury, but the separation itself is usually painless.
As the disease progresses, the initial symptoms slowly worsen. You can find that everything else becomes blurry when you focus on a single person or object. At some point, your vision will most likely become so blurry that everyday tasks are almost impossible to accomplish. As soon as the retina is completely detached, it is completely blind in the affected eye.
You can take the following steps to avoid tearing and retinal detachment:
- Familiarize yourself with the warning signs listed above and seek medical advice immediately if this occurs.
- Wear eye protection when exercising and doing other dangerous activities.
- Get an eye exam if you have a serious eye injury.
- If you are near-sighted or have a family history of retinal problems, you should have advanced eye exams done regularly
When to see a doctor
See a doctor right away if you have any signs or symptoms of retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is a medical emergency that can permanently cause you to lose your eyesight