Retinal tear: symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

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Rupture of the retina can cause Fluid and blood collect in the eye, which can cause several new floaters and loss of vision if the rupture causes a retinal detachment .

The retina plays a vital role in vision. Damage to the retina can cause vision loss and even permanent blindness.

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The retina is the thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye from the inside. The retina, located next to the optic nerve, is designed to receive light and send images of what the eye sees to the brain.

The retina processes light through photosensitive cells called photoreceptor cells. These cells are responsible for detecting light stimuli, which in turn are interpreted as images. Photoreceptor cells transmit information to the optic nerve, which sends visual information to the brain. The brain then classifies the information and "develops" the images.

If the retina cannot receive and process light, the brain does not receive information. One of the conditions that can stop this connection between the retina and the brain is retinal detachment, which can result from a ruptured retina.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of a retinal tear include flashes of light in the eyes and visible spots called floaters . Retinal tears can develop and progress rapidly, which can lead to retinal detachment.

Other symptoms to look out for include:

  • A sudden increase in the size and number of floating opacities, indicating the possibility of retinal rupture.
  • The sudden appearance of flashes of light, which can be the first stage of retinal rupture or detachment.
  • The appearance of a shadow in the peripheral (lateral) field of vision.
  • See a gray curtain slowly moving in your field of vision
  • Sudden vision impairment, including trouble focusing and blurred vision;
  • Headache

However, in some cases, a retinal tear may not cause any noticeable symptoms.

Retina detachment

Retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If you notice any symptoms of retinal rupture and begin to lose your sight, see your optometrist right away. Delaying treatment can worsen your outcome.

Causes

In most cases, retinal rupture occurs when the vitreous gel inside the eye contracts and separates the retina from the wall of the eye. Vitreous gel, also called vitreous, is a clear, jelly-like substance that fills most of the inside of the eye.

The main function of the vitreous gel is to help the eyeball maintain a spherical shape during the development of the fetal eye. Much remains to be learned about the functions of the gel. Once the eye develops in the womb, the purpose of the vitreous gel is unknown.

This gel also helps the retina adhere to the inner wall of the eyeball. Vitreous gel shrinkage can occur slowly over time or suddenly after an eye injury.

Related conditions

Other conditions associated with retinal tears include:

  • Diabetes
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Scar
  • High myopia ( myopia )
  • Past eye injury
  • History of retinal tear or detachment
  • Degeneration of the retina
  • Inflammatory disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Some inherited eye diseases
  • Retinopathy of prematurity

Around age 60, the vitreous gel begins to naturally separate from the back of the eye. This normal condition, known as posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), is part of the normal aging process, but the risk of retinal rupture also increases during this time.

Diagnostics

Your doctor will need to perform a complete and thorough eye exam. In most cases, no signs of a retinal tear are seen from the outside. The eye may be red or swollen from the increased pressure, but it will otherwise appear normal.

However, your healthcare provider will be able to see signs of tears in your eye with an ophthalmoscopy. Your healthcare provider may use eye drops to dilate your pupils . An indirect binocular ophthalmoscope can be used to take a three-dimensional image to examine the inside of the eye.

The healthcare professional can also use a slit lamp. The slit lamp enlarges the eye many times and illuminates it with bright light, allowing it to explore individual structures. You can see traces of pigment or blood cells floating in the fluid in front of the eye.

Tears and retinal detachments can often be directly visualized during the exam. In some cases, blood can obstruct vision, making it difficult to study the retina.

An ultrasound device can be used to examine the eye, especially if there is heavy bleeding within the eye. An ultrasound device creates sound waves that bounce off the back of your eye, forming an image that helps your doctor determine if your retina is really torn or even detached.

Watch out

The retinal tear is repaired with surgery. Your healthcare provider will discuss the type of procedure recommended based on the severity of the rupture. You will also be informed about the various risks and benefits of your treatment.

Retinal rupture surgery

Prompt treatment of a retinal tear usually gives a very good prognosis. Most retinal tears are treated by reattaching the retina to the back of the eye with laser surgery or cryotherapy (freezing).

Both procedures create a scar that helps attach the retina to the back of the eye, preventing fluid from passing through the tear and under the retina. The procedure generally prevents complete retinal detachment.

These procedures are usually done in an ophthalmologist's office and are generally not or very little discomfort. They include:

  • Laser surgery (photocoagulation): Your doctor will use a laser to inflict minor burns around the retinal tear. The resulting scarring will bond the retina to the underlying tissue, helping to prevent retinal detachment.
  • Freezing treatment (cryopexy): Your doctor will use a freezing probe to freeze the retina surrounding the retinal tear. The result is a scar that helps attach the retina to the wall of the eye.

Not all retinal tears require treatment. Low-risk tears without any symptoms can sometimes be closely controlled without treatment. Some tears will dissolve on their own, forming a ridge around the tear without treatment.

Get the word of drug information

Retinal rupture requires immediate professional attention as it can quickly lead to retinal detachment. If left untreated, retinal detachment can lead to complete visual impairment. However, if caught early, most detached retinas can be surgically repaired with partial or complete restoration of vision.

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