Retinal Detachment Recovery
Retinal detachment is a serious problem that can result in vision loss if it does not receive immediate treatment. Understanding more about retinal detachment will help you to understand this condition and the treatment and recovery options that are available. Remember if you believe that your retina may be detached it is critical to seek immediate medical attention. Permanent vision loss can occur quickly, sometimes in as few as 24 hours.
What is Retinal Detachment?
Retinal detachment is a condition that occurs when the retina separates or disconnects from the tissues that it connects to within the eye. When the retina detaches it cannot function properly and vision loss will occur. The vision loss can become permanent if the problem is not corrected quickly. Generally it needs to be repaired within 24-72 hours of detachment to avoid permanent vision problems.
The retina is a thin layer of tissue that is found on the inside of the back of the eye. Every time you look at an object light enters the eye. Parts of the eye like the cornea and the lens focus this light and reflect it onto the retina. The retina contains photoreceptors known as rods and cones that take this light and turn it into an electro-chemical signal. This signal is then sent to the brain via the optic nerve. Without the retina vision cannot occur.
How Does Retinal Detachment Occur?
Retinal detachment occurs any time that a portion of the retina separates from the tissue in the eye. It is often caused by breaks or tears in the retina. These tears sometimes occur due to age or genetics. Injury is not a common cause of retinal breaks.
When the retina tears liquid from the eye, known as vitreous liquid or gel, can pass through the tear in the retina. This fluid often accumulates behind the retina which can cause the retina to separate from the tissue to which it is attached. Without treatment this detachment can progress and eventually the entire retina may detach.
What Are the Symptoms of Retinal Detachment?
If you start to notice the signs or symptoms of a retinal detachment it is important to see your eye doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can reduce or eliminate the possibility and severity of vision loss due to retinal detachment. In some cases these symptoms can occur with a retinal tear and seeking treatment can prevent the retina from ever detaching. The sooner that treatment is received the better the chances are for sight restoration.
Retinal detachment is painless. Occasionally bleeding can occur with a retinal tear, but this does not always happen. If you have a retinal tear or detachment you may see floaters (flecks, threads or spots in your visual field) or flashes of light. Darkening of your peripheral vision is another common symptom.
The only way to diagnose retinal detachment is with an eye exam that includes dilation. During this exam your eye doctor will use special drops to dilate the pupil of the eye. This allows them to use special instruments to see into the eye so they can determine if your retina is torn or detached.
What Are the Treatment Options?
Early treatment is very important for those with a retinal break, tear or hole. Often early treatment can keep the retina from detaching. When retinal detachment or tears are treated quickly there is less vision loss and a lower chance or permanent vision problems. Once the retina starts to detach it will generally continue separating from the eye tissue until full detachment occurs. If the macula, or portion of the retina responsible for central vision, separates from the surrounding eye tissue it is much more difficult to repair the detachment.
Surgical treatment is the most common course for retinal detachment and results are generally quite good. With treatment the retina can usually be reattached. Approximately 80% of cases are resolved with a single surgery and 90% of cases can be resolved with multiple surgeries. Generally the procedure involves either laser therapy or cryotheraphy (freezing). The treatment options selected and the exact procedure used will vary depending on the type of tear, its severity and the patient.
Recovery After a Retinal Detachment Procedure
Redness and watering of the eye, swelling and itching are commonly reported by patients after surgery. These feeling can last for an extended period of time after the procedure. Eye drops are often used to lessen the irritation and severity of these problems. In addition many people experience blurry vision for a period of time. Most patients notice that their vision will first stabilize and then slowly start to improve. It can take several months for vision to reach its optimal levels.
Many people find that after surgery they need a new set of glasses. The treatments used can change the shape of the eye thus resulting in the need for a new prescription. Other more serious complications can include double vision, increased eye pressure, bleeding, cataracts or drooping eyelids. Infection can also occur. It is important to follow all doctor recommendations after surgery to reduce the risk of infection and to promote optimal healing.
Following the recommendations of a doctor can help to speed and improve recovery after a retinal reattachment surgery. Studies have shown that a few patients will experience future tears or breaks in their retina, even after an initial surgery is completed. For this reason many people will need to visit their eye doctor more frequently for the rest of their lives.
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