What would it be like to not be able to see the world around you? Every year, people lose their vision, because they had a retinal detachment that wasn’t treated promptly – and not everyone is aware of the symptoms of retinal detachment.
What is Detachment of the Retina?
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. When light hits it, the retina changes those light photons into a nerve message that’s sent to the brain to be interpreted as an image. Obviously, the retina is important for seeing the world – and a retinal attachment that’s untreated could lead to long-term visual problems.
Retinal Detachment Risk Factors
A person’s lifetime risk of developing a retinal detachment is about one in 300, so this is a condition that isn’t uncommon – and it can occur completely without warning. Certain people have a higher risk of retinal detachment. People who are near-sighted or have diabetes, those who participate in extreme sports, people who have had cataract surgery or trauma to the eye, and those who are older are all at greater risk for detachment of the retina.
Symptoms of Retinal Detachment
Retinal detachment is usually preceded by posterior vitreous detachment where the gel-like vitreous tissue in the back of the eye shrinks and separates from the retina. Posterior vitreous detachment is a normal process that occurs with aging, and it only requires treatment if the separation causes a tear in the retina.
With posterior vitreous detachment, most people develop floaters and they may have flashes of light in their visual field. In some cases, these symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from a more serious retinal tear or detachment without an eye exam.
A few floaters and occasional light flashes are normal if you’ve had posterior vitreous detachment. The floaters are bits of debris suspended in the vitreous gel that move across the field of vision when you move your eyes. Light flashes occur when the vitreous tissue tugs on the retina during or after vitreous separation. These symptoms don’t require treatment if they’re due to vitreous separation – and the retina is completely intact.
So what are the symptoms of retinal detachment? When the retina tears or detaches, you can experience a sudden increase in the number of visual floaters and flashes of light, and it may feel like a dark curtain is moving over your field of vision. There can be patchy areas of visual loss, and straight lines may appear wavy or curved when you look at them. Not all these symptoms need to be present for there to be a detachment of the retina.
Detachment of the Retina Needs Prompt Attention
If you experience a new-onset of floaters or flashes of light in your vision, get a prompt eye exam. It may be posterior vitreous separation, but why take a chance? Detachment of the retina is a vision-threatening problem that needs prompt treatment. Be aware of the symptoms of retinal detachment – and get help if they occur.
Web Md. “Retinal Detachment – Symptoms”
Journal of Ophthalmology 59(9): 480-2.