Retinal Detachment: an Ocular Emergency

The retina is the back layer of the eye that translates light into an image the brain can understand. It is one of the most critical parts of your vision.

However, the retina can sometimes pull away from the back of the eye. This is known as a retinal detachment. The separation of the retina from the back of the eye impairs the retina’s ability to process light, causing you to lose your vision. This situation is classified as an emergency: not treating it quickly will lead to permanent vision loss in that eye.

Retinal Detachment (arrow) imaged with ultrasound

Retinal Detachment (arrow) imaged with ultrasound

How or Why Does the Retina Detach?

The retina will detach when eye fluid somehow gets between the retina and the wall of the eye. This fluid can get in through a small tear in the retina. This is more likely to happen for a number of reasons including genetic predisposition for retinal detachment, eye injuries, severe nearsightedness, or cataracts.

What Symptoms Are There?

It is very important to pay attention to these symptoms for a few reasons. First, as mentioned above, a detached retina must be treated very quickly if you are to save the vision in the eye. Second, the detachment often happens with little to no warning. There will also be no pain, so these symptoms are the only sign you have that your retina needs to be repaired.

Symptoms include floaters, which are small flecks in your vision, and flashes of light. Any shadows or curtains of light could indicate a retinal tear, which can contribute to a retinal detachment.

If any of these happen to you, contact your ophthalmologist immediately. He or she will dilate and examine your eye to see if your retina has detached from the eye wall and provide you with proper treatment to save your eyesight.

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