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Planning Retirement Online

Quick treatment is vital for detached retinas

June 2012

RetinaThe more one learns about the eyes, the more scary they are. Sight is such a wonderful and precious thing and for healthy adults, it can be all too easy to take vision for granted. But there is so much that can go wrong, especially as we age.

One area where treatment has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years is for detached or torn retinas.

The retina is a vital part of the eye. It is actually a highly sensitive tissue which lines the back of the eye and contains millions of nerve cells. These nerve cells convert the light rays that come into the eye into nerve signals which are sent via the optic nerve to the brain which then translates it all into vision as we know it. The retina needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients for it to function properly and this supply comes through blood vessels. If the retina is torn, or starts to become detached so that it separates from the underlying blood vessels, then the supply of oxygen and nutrients will diminish, stopping the nerve signals and therefore curtailing vision.

Some people are more at risk of retinal detachments than others. For instance, if you have suffered from severe short sightedness, glaucoma or have had previous cataract surgery, the risk is higher. An eye injury or a family history of retinal detachment can increase the risk. Getting older can also increase the risk as the retina can become thinner and more brittle with age, resulting in it tearing away from the blood vessels.

The key to treatment is to seek help quickly. The symptoms aren’t always obvious. Our eyes are filled with vitreous, a clear gel that is attached to the retina. Sometimes little lumps form in this gel which cast shadows on the retina, or you may see dots and specks in your normal vision. These can be an indication of a tear in the retina. But if you start to see flashing lights, or brief sudden appearances of light in your vision for no real reason, then this can be due to the vitreous shrinking and pulling on the retina starting a detachment.

Other symptoms can include seeing a shadow on the edge of your field of vision, or seeing a grey shadow moving right across your vision. Any change or reduction in vision needs to be investigated.

Sometimes a routine eye check may make your optician aware of a likelihood of developing retina problems, in which case he or she will probably recommend regular testing.

If a problem is diagnosed, then the quicker it is treated the better. The longer a retina is detached the greater the chance of permanent damage to sight.

If the retina is torn, it may be treated with laser surgery or cryotherapy (freezing treatment) when the retina will be fixed back onto the wall of the eye. This treatment can be performed in an ophthalmologists’s surgery.

If the retina is detached, then surgery is needed to fix the retina back in its proper position. There are various processes used to do this depending on the state of the eye and the level of detachment.

Today over 80 per cent of retinal detachment surgery is successful, but not all detachments can be mended and then blindness is usually the result.


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