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General Practice 2023

Retinal detachment: symptoms, causes and surgery

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Retinal detachment: symptoms, causes and surgery
Retinal detachment: symptoms, causes and surgery

Retinal detachment is an emergency situation in which the retina is detached from its correct position. When this happens, a part of the retina no longer has contact with the layer of blood vessels at the back of the eye and, as a result, the retina does not receive the amount of blood and oxygen it needs, which can result in tissue death and blindness.

Usually, retinal detachment is more frequent after the age of 50, due to aging, but it can also appear in young patients who have suffered blows to the head or eye, who have diabetes or who have eye problems, such as glaucoma.

Retinal detachment is curable through surgery, but treatment must be started as soon as possible to prevent the retina from being without oxygen for a long time, causing permanent complications.Therefore, whenever there is a suspicion of a retinal detachment, it is very important to go to the ophthalmologist or hospital immediately.

Eye with retinal detachment

Eye with retinal detachment

Main symptoms

Symptoms that may indicate a retinal detachment are:

  • Small dark spots, similar to hairs, that appear in the field of vision;
  • Sudden flashes of light;
  • Sensation of pain or discomfort in the eye;
  • Very blurry vision;
  • Dark shadow that covers part of the field of view.

These symptoms usually appear before retinal detachment and, therefore, it is recommended to consult an ophthalmologist immediately for a complete examination of the eye and start the appropriate treatment, avoiding serious complications, such as blindness.

See what might be small spots floating in the field of view.

How to confirm the diagnosis

In most cases the diagnosis can be made by the ophthalmologist only through an eye exam, in which the fundus of the eye can be observed, however, other diagnostic tests may also be necessary, such as an ultrasound eyepiece or a fundoscopy.

Thus, the best way to confirm the presence of a retinal detachment is to consult an ophthalmologist.

What causes retinal detachment

Retinal detachment happens when the vitreous, which is a type of gel that is inside the eye, manages to escape and accumulates between the retina and the back of the eye, causing the retina to detach from your normal location.

This is more common with advancing age and therefore retinal detachment is more common in people over 50, but it can also happen in young people who have:

  • Did some kind of eye surgery;
  • Suffered an eye injury;
  • Frequent eye inflammation.

In these cases, the retina may become thinner and thinner and end up breaking, leaving the vitreous to accumulate behind it and causing a detachment.

When surgery is necessary

Surgery is the only form of treatment for retinal detachment and, therefore, surgery must be performed whenever the diagnosis of retinal detachment is confirmed.

Depending on whether there is already a retinal detachment or if there is only a retinal tear, the type of surgery may vary:

  • Laser: the ophthalmologist applies a laser to the retina that promotes healing of small tears that may have appeared;
  • Cryopexy: the doctor applies an anesthetic to the eye and then with the help of a small device freezes the outer membrane of the eye, to close any fissures in the retina;
  • Injection of air or gas into the eye: this is done under anesthesia and, in this type of surgery, the doctor removes the vitreous that is accumulated behind the retina. It then injects air or gas into the eye to replace the vitreous and push the retina into place. After some time, the retina heals and the air, or gas, is absorbed and replaced by a new amount of vitreous.

Postoperatively after surgery for retinal detachment, it is common to experience some discomfort, redness and swelling in the eye, especially in the first 7 days. Therefore, the doctor usually prescribes eye drops to relieve symptoms until the review appointment.

Recovery from retinal detachment depends on the severity of the detachment, and in the most severe cases, in which there has been detachment of the central part of the retina, the recovery time may take several weeks and vision may not be the same to what it was before.

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