What is Retinal Detachment?

The retina is thin layer on the inside of the eye which contains over a hundred million precious photoreceptor cells. These cells receive light signals and convert them into vision information for the brain to process and perceive vision. This thin layer is attached to the much thicker choroid layer which provides the retina with nutrients. In some unfortunate cases, the Retina layer breaks away from the choroid layer and collapses. Not the entire Retina but part of it.

What causes Retinal Detachment?

There are various causes of retinal detachment but they can be classified into 3 main categories.

1)      Rhegmatogenous – This is caused by a tear in the Retina. Once there is a tear, fluid starts to accumulate behind the retina and causes outward pressure on the retina. Being a rather thin layer, the retina detaches and falls due the weight of accumulated fluids.

2)      Traction – Tractional Retinal detachment occurs when the points connecting the vitreous to the retina is tugged at, causing the retina to be mechanically pulled off. This usually happens as a secondary complication to proliferative diabetic retinopathy or severe trauma.

3)       Exudative – Diseases that disrupt the flow of vitreous fluids from being transferred to the choroid cause the fluids to accumulate behind the retina. However, in this case, the retina does not tear and fall but vision loss is as significant.

Am I at risk?

The following are the key risk factors for Retinal Detachment

  • Extreme Myopia – Almost half of Retinal Detachment patients have high myopia
  • People over the age of 40
  • Previous Trauma to the eye
  • Previous incidence of Retinal Detachment in either eye
  • Family history of Retinal Detachment
  • Previous Cataract removal
  • History of Eye Diseases

How would I know if have a retinal detachment?

The classic signs always associated with retinal detachment is a sudden outburst of floaters in the eyes. Floaters will appear as small black particles floating in your eye. These floaters will usually be accompanied by flashes of lights within the eye as well. And in cases where the retina collapses, you may experience a shadow over your vision. Some say it feels like the curtain falling over and covering your vision.

What do I do when I notice these signs?

The crucial element just like when someone has a stroke is speed. You need to get yourself to the accident and emergency department as soon as possible. The earlier it is diagnosed, the higher the chance of saving your vision. Having said that, it is normal to see a couple of floaters from time to time. So, there is no need to panic unless the outburst of floaters is significant. However, when in doubt, get it checked.  

How is Retinal Detachment treated?

The most common form of treatment of minor Retinal detachment is laser photocoagulation. Lasers are used to seal small tears on the retina.

For sever forms of detachment, vitrectomy would be indicated. Part or all of the vitreous humour will be sucked out by a suction. After which a silicon oil or a gas bubble may be used to fill in the empty space. This procedure helps to hold the retina in place while it heals.

The vision loss caused by retinal detachment cannot be restored completely. Some have better prognosis than others.

Stay Healthy & Stay Happy!