Our eyes play an integral role in helping us enjoy the beauty of life and what life has to offer. However, as we age, the quality of our vision reduces while some may also experience a condition medically known as retinal detachment.
As the name suggests, retinal detachment occurs when vitreous tends to pull away from the retina and hard enough that it tears the retina from one and sometimes even multiple places.
The clear gel in the middle of the eye is called vitreous. It is attached to the retina which is the lining of light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Seeking treatment for retinal detachment is important for clear vision and avoiding blindness. When the retina tears, the vision becomes blurry. Basically the retina converts rays of the light into impulses. These impulses travel though the optic nerve to the brain. The brain interprets these impulses as clear images that we see. However, during retinal detachment clarity is lost because retina fails to work.
The risk of retinal detachment increases as we age, predominantly because the vitreous fluid shrinks. However, other causes of vitreous pulling away include inflammation and myopia (nearsightedness).
For condition identification and treatment selection, your ophthalmologist may carry a detailed retinal examination using an instrument with a very bright light and a lens. With the help of this instrument, the ophthalmologist will examine the eye’s back. It provides a detailed view to the ophthalmologist helping them see retinal tears, holes and detachments. The ophthalmologist may also recommend ultrasound imaging if you happen to have bleeding in the eyes, thereby making it extremely difficult to see the retina. They will test both eyes for retinal detachment to see if the symptoms are present in both or only one eye.
Based on the diagnosis, your ophthalmologist may advice any of the following surgical treatments for retinal detachment based on your condition and level of severity.
Under this retinal detachment surgical treatment, a scleral buckle or flexible band made from silicone is placed around the affected area. This band helps indent the wall and counteract the force that pulls away the retina. During this procedure, the surgeon also drains out the fluid present under the detached retina. This is needed to help the retina settle back in its normal position—against the eye’s back wall. The scleral buckle is placed permanently but in a way that it doesn’t block the vision.
During this surgical procedure, an air bubble or gas is injected into the vitreous cavity. The function of this bubble is to push the holes created (due to retinal detachment) against the wall of the eye. This stops the fluid from flowing into the area behind the retina. Cryopexy is also used by the surgeon for retinal break repairing. Unlike the scleral buckle procedure, in this treatment the fluid collected under the retina is not drained but it is absorbed by itself. Once absorbed and dried out, the retina is able to adhere to the eye’s wall.
This is another popular surgical treatment for retinal detachment. In this surgical procedure, vitreous that tugs along any tissue on the retina is removed. Then gas, silicone oil or air is injected into the vitreous space. This helps the retina to flatten. Once the injected substance is absorbed, the vitreous space refills with body fluid. In case of silicone oil, it is removed surgically after a few months. In some cases, this procedure may be combined with scleral buckle.
The good news is that 80% to 90% of the surgical procedures for retinal detachments are successful. Also, please note that patience is the key here because improvement in vision after the procedure may take months. Therefore, to track progress, make sure to visit your ophthalmologist regularly.