Retinal detachment is a serious condition, and the symptoms are those you shouldn’t take lightly. This isn’t to scare you, but to remind you that they can lead to blindness or permanent alteration of your sight. Therefore, you should remain vigilant should you believe you could be experiencing it.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the signs of retinal detachment. We’ll also talk about who is at risk for this disorder, as well as signs you should see your doctor immediately.
Read on for more information on this condition.
What is the Retina?
In order to understand why retinal detachment is so serious, you’ll likely need to understand what a retina actually is.
To put it simply, the retina is comprised of a small layer of nerves located behind the eye. The nerves don’t only help you feel, but they also have a very important job to do. They can tell when your eye has met with light and then sends your optic nerve a signal so that your brain can process what you’re looking at.
This process is fairly complex, and so much so that scientists are still studying it. They have yet to understand completely how it works.
It is a vital part of vision. Therefore, having it become detached can create permanently altered vision, or the loss of vision entirely.
What is Retinal Detachment?
Now that we know what a retina is, what exactly does it mean for it to detach, and how does it happen?
The retina is secured to the backs of our eyes by a clear gel called the vitreous. This gel is what is inside of our eyeballs and keeps them maintaining their round shape.
As humans age, the vitreous in the eyeball can start to shrink or become smaller. This makes the eyeball change shape, and it can tug on the retina itself. Some changes to the vitreous and retinal tugging are actually fairly normal. Most people experience this as seeing a little flash of light.
However, a retinal detachment happens when the vitreous tugs so hard on the retina that the retina moves away from the eyeball. If too much fluid gets in between the eyeball and retina, this can cause retinal detachment.
Once detached, the retina can no longer do its job of sending light signals to the brain, which can cause a loss or alteration of vision.
What Causes a Detached Retina?
Many things can cause a detached retina, but your doctor can tell you if you’re more at risk than others for the condition.
The most common risk factor for retinal detachment is age. Most people who experience detachment are over the age of 40. A retinal detachment, however, can occur at age. Therefore, you shouldn’t decide not to see a doctor because you’re under the age of 40 if you’re experiencing symptoms.
If you sustain blunt force trauma to the eye, this can also cause retinal detachment. This can happen by blood cells getting in between the retina and vitreous it is attached to, which can ultimately make someone lose their vision, or their eye entirely.
People who have diabetes are also known to be more prone to developing a retinal detachment. If you have diabetes, you should speak to your doctor about what you can do to possibly prevent retinal detachment and your risk factors.
Individuals with severe nearsightedness are also more prone to developing a detachment. This is because their eyes change shape, which makes it more difficult for them to see clearly. Often times, this is genetic. The changing of the eyeball’s shape can, in turn, lead to a detachment of the retina.
Finally, individuals who have a close family member who has experienced a retinal detachment are also more likely to experience one themselves.
The Signs of Retinal Detachment: Before the Detachment
If you know you’re at risk for retinal detachment, you should know the signs that you’re experiencing one. Often times, the signs are fairly straightforward, and you won’t mistake it for something else. Most people will also have had symptoms for a couple of days or weeks leading up to the detachment that serve as a warning that there might be a problem.
Actual retinal detachment is painless, however, so individuals should be aware that while it is a medical emergency, they won’t experience any discomfort. Some people may brush off symptoms, reasoning that since they’re not in pain there isn’t a problem. But that isn’t the case.
Leading up to the retinal detachment, many people notice that their peripheral vision gradually begins to go. This may happen over the course of days or weeks. If you notice this happening, it is a good idea to make an appointment with a doctor so that you can have them check out what’s going on.
You may also experience flashing lights, or seeing shadows in your field of vision.
You may also see more floaters than you usually do. The floaters may move over your field of vision and then flash.
Before you experience retinal detachment, you may also notice a decrease in your vision or your ability to see. This can take the form of blurriness or appearing as though there is something in your field of vision.
Signs You’ve Already Experienced a Retinal Detachment
The biggest sign that a retinal detachment has already happened is experiencing what looks like gray all over your vision. Some people may describe this as a curtain or veil.
What to Do If You Think You’re Experiencing Retinal Detachment
If you think you’re experiencing a retinal detachment, it is a medical emergency and you should see the doctor as soon as possible. The earlier you get treatment, the more likely it is that you can retain your vision.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of retinal detachment, you should call your eye doctor and book an emergency appointment. If your eye doctor cannot see you on an emergency basis, you can go to your local emergency room or urgent care clinic.
They can then refer you to a facility that can test for your retinal detachment and possibly treat it.
For best results, it is important that you’re treated within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. This gives you a much better chance of your eyes retaining vision.
Will I Lose My Vision?
Whether or not you’ll lose vision in the eye depends on the severity of the retinal detachment and how quickly you’re treated. If you experience a severe retinal detachment and do not get any treatment, it is very likely you’ll lose the vision in your eye.
Those who get treatment immediately for retinal detachment are less likely to have this issue. However, depending on how your retina was detached, including what the cause was for the detachment, will determine how much of a recovery you’ll make.
For some people, they may have a cloudy curtain over their vision after the detachment. Other people may have their vision restored to the same way it was previously.
What Treatments Are Available for Retinal Detachment?
An eye doctor has several ways of repairing your retina and hopefully, saving your vision.
Your doctor may apply cold to the tissue in your eye, which can cause scarring next to the retina. This will force the retina to stay attached.
There are also a few surgical procedures that a doctor can perform. A laser surgery is, perhaps, the most intense. This surgery intends to repair the retina, as well as treat the underlying cause of the detachment. This is mostly used when the underlying cause is an issue with the vitreous in the eyeball.
Your doctor may also perform a procedure that uses a tiny gas bubble to help float the detached retina back into place. This surgery is typically also accompanied by laser surgery to make sure that everything is in its correct location.
Taking Inventory of Your Retinal Health
Although there isn’t necessarily a way to prevent retinal detachment, aside from avoiding blunt force trauma and living a healthy lifestyle to avoid Type 2 diabetes, visits to the eye doctor can help you determine if you’re at risk for detachment.
An eye doctor can go over some of the signs of retinal detachment with you, as well as what you might experience personally due to the structure of your eye.
Make an appointment with us today and invest in your eye health. Your retinas may thank you one day!