Retinal and Vitreous Diseases
Retinal detachment is a serious vitreoretinal disease that may affect people of any age. It occurs when the retina separates from the wall of the eye, depriving retinal cells of oxygen. The longer this goes on, the greater the risk of permanent vision loss in the affected eye.
With age, the vitreous—a jelly-like substance that fills the eyes—becomes more fluid. This causes flashes or floaters in your vision. This condition is fairly common and may not be a problem. However, if you’re experiencing it, you should be examined for signs of retinal detachment.
Risk factors include aging, previous retinal detachment, a family history of the disease, extreme nearsightedness, cataract removal, or trauma to your eye(s). The disease may be caused by trauma, advanced diabetes, sagging or shrinking of the jelly-like vitreous and/or inflammation.
Rapid diagnosis and care is essential to avoid vision loss or to restore lost vision. Immediately see an optometrist, ophthalmologist, family or emergency room physician if you notice the sudden appearance of many floaters, sudden flashes of light, a sudden blur in your vision, and/or a curtain or shadow over a portion of your vision.
“Retinal detachment is a critical disease, and its signs should never be ignored,” says Paul Dieckert, M.D., a vitreoretinal disease surgeon at the Scott & White Eye Institute. “Once diagnosed, surgery may be required within 24-72 hours to restore vision.”
Surgery for retinal detachment involves vitrectomy (removal of the eye gel) and laser photocoagulation. A local or general anesthetic is used in what is usually a one-hour procedure. After care may include restriction of normal activities, limited lifting for at least a month, and eye protection, such as a plastic shield or glasses, to be worn at all times. Usually eye drops are necessary. Patients are seen one day, seven days, 28 days, three moths, six months and a year following retinal detachment surgery. “After that, patients should be followed up at least annually by their eye care provider,” says Dr. Dieckert.
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