The retina is a delicate layer of tissue that lines the inside of the back of your eye. It converts light entering your eye into electrical signals and sends them to the brain through the optic nerve.
This allows you to see clearly. Retinal issues like a torn retina or a detached retina are serious conditions that can lead to vision loss without timely and proper treatment.
What is a Retinal Tear?
As you grow older, the vitreous humor begins to shrink and lose its firmness that helps support the retina. The vitreous humor is the clear gel-like fluid that fills the space between your lens and retina.
As the vitreous shrinks, it tugs away from your retina. This is called a posterior vitreous detachment, or PVD.
A posterior vitreous detachment, or PVD, does not always cause a significant issue. In some cases, you may only develop extra floaters or see flashes of light.
However, the vitreous jelly can sometimes stick to the retina and pull hard enough to tear a small piece of it in one or more places. This is known as a retinal tear.
When you have a torn retina, the retina remains attached to the back of your eye. However, the ripped part is no longer attached to the back of the eye.
A retinal tear isn’t as serious as a retinal detachment. But it can cause a retinal detachment without proper treatment.
Depending on the location and size, your doctor may consider your retinal tear low risk with a reduced chance of causing retinal detachment. In this case, you may not need treatment.
However, a retinal specialist will closely monitor the tear or hole to ensure it doesn’t worsen and take prompt action if necessary. Usually, there are two treatment options used for retinal tears:
A laser is used to seal the edges of a tear. Sealing the tear prevents the vitreous from seeping under the retina through the hole, where it can cause a retinal detachment.
During your procedure, the surgeon uses a laser to surround the retinal tear with a few rows of laser spots. These spots create scar tissue within a week.
The scar seals the retinal tear by reattaching its edges to the underlying tissue or eyewall.
Cryotherapy uses extremely cold temperatures to form a scar on the retina. The scar creates a bond that reconnects your retina around the tear to the walls of your eye.
Your doctor may recommend cryotherapy if:
- You have a cataract
- A laser can’t reach the retinal tear
- The vitreous has started to leak under your retina
What is a Retinal Detachment?
A detached retina happens when the vitreous seeps through a retinal tear into the space behind your retina. As the fluid builds up, your retina completely separates from the eye wall, causing retinal detachment.
Retinal detachment is considered a medical emergency and can lead to permanent blindness unless treated promptly.
Your doctor may suggest the following treatment options when you have a detached retina:
Cryotherapy uses very low temperatures to freeze your retina and its supporting tissues together. Reattaching the retina to your eyewall prevents further damage and allows your retina to heal.
In photocoagulation, your surgeon directs a laser over the detachment. The laser emits light that burns the area around the retinal detachment to form a scar. This scar binds the detached part of your retina to the eyewall.
Cryotherapy or laser photocoagulation is often combined with pneumatic retinopexy. During the procedure, your surgeon injects an expanding gas bubble into your eye.
The bubble puts pressure on the detached portion of your retina, pushing it back in place. Then, the doctor uses a laser or cryotherapy to seal the detached retina against the underlying tissue.
A vitrectomy involves removing some or all of the vitreous humor. Removing the vitreous prevents it from tugging on your retina.
The vitreous is then replaced with a gas bubble or clear liquid such as silicone oil. This new substance applies pressure on the detached retina, pushing it back into place.
A scleral buckle is a piece of semi-hard plastic, silicone sponge, or rubber that’s stitched around the sclera or white part of your eye. The buckle pushes your sclera towards the middle of the eye, which is called the buckling effect.
The buckling effect stops the traction on your retina and moves the retina to the wall of your eye. But this effect can’t prevent a retinal detachment from re-occurring.
For this reason, your surgeon may also use laser photocoagulation or cryotherapy to seal off the detached area of the retina and stop further fluid leakage.
Signs and Symptoms of a Retinal Tear and a Retinal Detachment
A torn retina shares similar symptoms with a detached retina. Both conditions won’t cause pain but can lead to the following symptoms:
- The gradual or sudden appearance of many new floaters
- Blurred vision
- Flashes of light
- Dimmer vision
- Reduced peripheral vision
- Seeing a curtain-like shadow in your side or peripheral vision
Bear in mind that a retinal tear may occur without obvious symptoms in some cases.
Save Your Sight from a Retinal Tear or Detachment
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of a retinal tear or detachment, the experienced doctors at Joshi Retina Institute can help. They offer comprehensive, advanced treatment options for a torn or detached retina to prevent irreversible damage.
Do you have symptoms of a retinal tear or a retinal detachment? Schedule an appointment at Joshi Eye Institute in Boynton Beach, FL, today to protect your sight from severe vision loss.