Retinal Detachment And The Importance Of Urgent Treatment

Retinal detachment occurs when the retina, located at the back of the eye, starts to separate from the surrounding tissue. This cuts off the blood supply to the retina, causing progressive damage to it the longer it goes without oxygen. Because it's important to act quickly if you suspect your retina has detached, it's good to know what the risk factors and symptoms are so that you can seek medical attention right away if you notice the symptoms.

What Are The Risk Factors?

While anyone can experience retinal detachment, there are a number of factors that raise your risk. As you age, for example, the gel-like vitreous fluid in the eye can shrink or change in consistency, pulling on the retina. In addition, your retina often thins as you age, becoming more fragile. So the older you are, the higher your risk for retinal detachment. Other risk factors for retinal detachment include:

  • Extreme myopia (nearsightedness)
  • A personal or family history of retinal detachment
  • Prior cataract surgery
  • Diagnosis with other eye conditions
  • Prior trauma or eye injury

What Symptoms Should You Watch For?

All the symptoms to watch for are visual ones; retinal detachment is completely painless. There are three key things that you might see if you retina is detaching. First, the number of specks and visual debris, sometimes called floaters, that you see in your vision might suddenly increase. Second, you may have flashes of light appear in your vision. And third, you may see a dark "curtain" appear across your field of vision.

For a more visual representation of what these symptoms might look like, you can look at the Retinal Detachment Vision Simulator created by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Why Is Urgent Treatment So Important?

Despite the fact that retinal detachment is painless, it's certainly not a minor problem; it's crucial that it is surgically reattached as soon as possible. The retina is the portion of the eye that transmits visual information to the brain. And the longer the retina is detached and cut off from blood flow, the more likely it is to lead to permanent vision loss.

In the middle of the retina is a region called the macula lutea, which is responsible for highly-detailed vision. Retinal detachment that is caught and fixed before the macula becomes detached is less likely to cause permanent vision problems.

What Should You Do If You Think Your Retina Is Detaching?

If you have an ophthalmologist like one from Coastal Eye Group PC, you should call them right away. Otherwise, call your primary care doctor. And if you can't get a hold of your doctor, you should go to an emergency room; problems that can lead to loss of vision are classified as medical emergencies. 

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