Retinal detachment occurs when the thin lining at the back of your eye called the retina begins to pull away from the blood vessels that supply it with oxygen and nutrients. Without prompt treatment it will lead to blindness in the affected eye.
A retinal detachment occurs when the retina’s layers separate. Any portion of the retina that is detached cannot send visual signals to the brain. If left untreated, retinal detachment can cause devastating damage to an individual’s vision.
Retinal detachment is considered an ocular emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
Retinal detachment symptoms
Most people will experience warning signs that indicate their retina is at risk of detaching before they lose their sight. These are:-
- the sudden appearance of floaters – dark spots that float in your field of vision
- sudden short flashes of light in one eye
- blurred or distorted vision.
There are other causes for these symptoms too, but it is important to be checked out by an eye specialist immediately to identify whether a detached retina is the cause or not.
When retinal detachment occurs it usually results in sudden blindness. This can occur in the whole eye (or eyes), or just part of the eye; so it appears as if someone has pulled a curtain over part of your vision.
Causes of a detached retina
Retinal detachment is most often the result of the retina becoming thinner and more brittle with age and pulling away from the underlying blood vessels. Retinal detachment can also be caused by a direct injury to the eye, but this is less common.
Retinal detachment usually begins with a retinal tear or hole in the retina. When a small hole or tear occurs, fluid from the eye can seep into the space between the retina and the back of the eye, which peels the retina away further.
Retinal detachment is a rare condition. Only one in every 10,000 people will develop a new case of retinal detachment in any given year in the UK. As retinal detachment is associated with ageing, most cases affect older adults aged between 50 and 75 years old.
Treatment for retinal detachment
The sooner a detached retina is treated the better the chance of a good outcome. If a retinal tear is detected early enough it can often be ‘welded’ down again with a laser or by freezing. In the case of a retinal detachment, retinal detachment surgery is almost always necessary.