Retinal Detachments/Tears

The retina (neurosensory tissue in the back of the eye) may tear or form hole as we undergo age related changes. The vitreous gel liquifies and suddenly pulls away from the retina which may cause the retinal tissue to break. This may cause new onset of symptoms such as flashes of light (photopsia) or acute onset of floaters. Certain preconditions may place an individual at risk for retinal tear: myopic (near-sighted), familial, or ocular trauma.  Once a retinal defect is present, a retina detachment may occur.

A retina detachment occurs in approximately 1:10,000 people when the neurosensory retinal tissue separates from the underlying retinal pigment epithelium and the choroid in the back of the eye. Retina detachment is usuallymarked by the sudden loss of part or all of the vision in the affected eye.  Often it is preceded by the formation of retinal tear or hole with subsequent influx of fluid into the subretinal space. Many times, it is associated with photopsia or worsening floaters. Retina detachments are diagnosed in a dilated eye examination.

The specific treatment used to re-attach the retina to the eye wall depends on where the detachment occurred. The options include injecting a gas bubble (pneumatic retinopexy) to support the retina while new tissue builds to connect it to the wall of the eye; cryosurgery that creates scar tissue that allows the retina to reattach inself to the eye wall; or sclera buckle, in which a silicone implant is inserted permanently around the eye to reduce tension on the retinal surface and allow reattachment. Patients generally go home the same day as the procedure. Depending on the treatment used, patients may have to maintain a head down position for a few days. The full recovery period can take several months. Retina re-attachment surgery is usually very successful, although in some cases a secondary surgery is required if scar tissue formation occurs.