A detached retina can occur at any age, but it is more common in midlife and later. Conditions that can increase your risk of a retinal detachment include nearsightedness; diabetes especially if the diabetes is poorly controlled, previous cataract surgery; glaucoma; severe trauma; previous retinal detachment in your other eye; family history of retinal detachment; or weak areas in your retina.
Your retina normally lies smoothly and firmly against the inside back wall of the eyeball and functions much like the film in the back of a camera. Millions of light-sensitive retinal cells receive optical images, instantly process them, and send them on to your brain to be seen.
Did you know that basketball player Amar'e Stoudemire, soccer star Pele, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso and mixed martial artist Alan Belcher had detached retinas?
Did you know that one of the most famous people in history to have detached retinas was journalist, publisher and politician? Did you know that Joseph Pulitzer had detached retinas in both eyes and became blind when he was in his 40s, but he was still able to run his newspaper empire?
Your retina acts like the film in a camera. When light strikes the retina, it "takes the picture" via a complex chain of chemical reactions that changes light rays into electrical impulses. The impulses are then transmitted to the brain through the optic nerve. If any part of the delicate retina is damaged, some degree of vision will be lost. Retina detachment is a serious eye condition that happens when your retina detaches from the tissue around it. Since the retina cannot work properly when this happens, you could have permanent vision loss if you don’t get it treated right away.
Symptoms of Detached Retina
Symptoms include a sudden or gradual increase in either the number of floaters, which are little “cobwebs” or specks that float about in your field of vision, and/or light flashes in the eye. Another symptom is the appearance of a curtain over the field of vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of a retinal detachment should see an eye care professional immediately.
Retinal detachment treatment may require surgery to return the retina to its proper position in the back of your eye. In some cases, a scleral buckle, a tiny synthetic band, is attached to the outside of your eyeball to gently push the wall of your eye against the detached retina. Surgery will find all the retinal breaks and seal them and to relieve present and future vitreoretinal traction, or pulling. Without surgery, there is a high risk of total vision loss.
If necessary, a vitrectomy may also be performed. During a vitrectomy, the surgeon makes a tiny incision in the sclera (white of the eye). Next, a small instrument is placed into your eye to remove the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills the center of the eye and helps the eye maintain a round shape. Gas is often injected to into your eye to replace the vitreous and reattach the retina; the gas pushes the retina back against the wall of the eye. During the healing process, the eye makes fluid that gradually replaces the gas and fills the eye. With all of these procedures, either laser or cryopexy is used to “weld” the retina back in place.
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