The retina is the inner back layer of the eye that detects light that enters the eye through the pupil. The retina then transmits that information from the eye to the brain. The eye is designed such that the retina is basically like a piece of wallpaper lining the inside of the eye.
For various reasons, the retina can tear or detach from the inside of the eye. This tear is called a retinal tear. A tear in the retina is of great concern, because it can extend and allow fluid to enter through the tear and detach the retina from the underlying tissue. This detachment is called a retinal detachment. If such a retinal detachment occurs, it can be vision threatening. That is correct, a detachment can cause you to lose your vision! Additionally, there is currently no means by which ophthalmologists can repair or replace a damaged retina and no means by which to transplant an eye. Thus, if you experience one or more of the symptoms below, call your ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY!
Signs and Symptoms of a Retinal Tear
- A “curtain” coming down over the field of vision
- A rapid and dramatic decrease in visual acuity
- Persistent flashers and/or a “lightning bolt” in your vision
- A sudden burst of many (50 – 100 or more) new floaters
- A gray haze or cloud over all or part of your vision
GetEyeSmart.Org offers a Vision Simulator to show you what someone with a detachment might experience.
What to Do In Case of a Retinal Tear
If a retinal tear leads to a detachment, you have only a short time to prevent either partial or complete vision loss from becoming permanent. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the symptoms of a retinal detachment and to seek treatment immediately if you believe one is occurring. Common symptoms of a retinal detachment may include one or more of the following. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, call your ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY! You only have a short time to save your sight.
Causes and Risk Factors
A retinal detachment can occur at any age, but it is more common in people after the age of 40. Also, it is more common in men than in women. Lastly, it is more common in people who are1:
- Are extremely nearsighted
- Have had a previous detachment
- Have a family history of detachments
- Have had cataract surgery
- Have other eye diseases or disorders
- Have had a traumatic eye injury
A retinal tear is treated either with laser surgery or cryotherapy. Both procedures seal the retina to the back of the eye. They also prevent fluid from traveling through the tear and under the retina, which otherwise would cause a detachment.
A retinal detachment is far more serious and must but treated in a timely manner surgically. The detachment of the retina causes it to lose it connection to the eye’s blood supply. As a result, a detachment will degenerate and lose its ability to function, if not properly reattached quickly.
EMG’s Vision Loss Homepage: Presbyopia
1. National Eye Institute. https://www.nei.nih.gov/health/retinaldetach/retinaldetach.