A retinal detachment is a sight threatening condition and requires prompt treatment to preserve as much of your vision as possible.
The retina (this is the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye that enables you to see, analogous to the film of a camera), can become separated from structures beneath. The quicker the layers can be reattached the better, and unfortunately without treatment your vision may be permanently affected.
Retinal detachment usually happens due to the vitreous (the jelly like substance inside your eye) coming apart from the retina and creating a small break in the retina, which subsequently allows fluid to flow behind and peel the retina away. The symptoms when this happens include;
- Seeing flashes of light
- New ‘floaters’ – wiggly dots or lines in your vision
- A shadow or curtain coming across the vision
- A sudden deterioration in your vision
Treatment of retinal detachment
We use specialist equipment to reattach the retina.
Most commonly we remove the clear gel like substance inside the eye (an operation called a a vitrectomy) and replace it with a small bubble of gas which keeps the retina in place as it heals. The gas slowly disappears by itself over a few weeks, and as this happens your vision returns.
Alternatively we may advise that we place a small rubber band on the outside of the eye. This band pushes the retina back against the underlying structures and promotes reattachment.
It is common for the eye to be sore, gritty and red following retinal detachment surgery, and the vision straight after the operation will be poor, especially if you have had a gas bubble placed in the eye. You may have to posture – this involves positioning the head in a certain way for the majority of the time for a few days. You will be given a personalised plan for this following your surgery.
Who is at risk of retinal detachment?
The real answer to this is that is can happen to anyone. If you have any of the symptoms above, please seek urgent ophthalmological review.
As we get older our risk of retinal detachment increases due to the age related changes of the vitreous jelly inside the eye. Your late fifties to early seventies are highest risk years. If you are short sighted, have had eye trauma or surgery (including cataract operations), or have had a retinal detachment before your risk is slightly higher, but anyone who notices new changes to their vision should seek help straight away.
Recovery following surgery
The recovery will depend on the type of surgery you have had. The vision will be poor straight after the operation and if you have had a gas bubble inserted in the eye you may be asked to posture for the majority of the time for a few days. You must not fly with a gas bubble in the eye as the decreased pressure at altitude causes the gas to expand and can raise the pressure in the eye.
The good news is that as the gas bubble goes, there is a 90% chance that the retina will be reattached. If the central part of the retina (macular) was not detached before the operation, then the central vision should be preserved. Of course, if there are any concerns following the operation, you can call us. We will see you in clinic approximately 2 weeks after the surgery.