Detached and Torn Retina
A retinal detachment is a very serious problem that almost
always causes blindness unless treated. The appearance of flashing lights,
floating objects, or a gray curtain moving across the field of vision are all
indications of a retinal detachment. If any of these occur, see an
ophthalmologist right away.
As one gets older, the vitreous, the clear gel-like
substance that fills the inside of the eye, tends to shrink slightly and take
on a more watery consistency. Sometimes as the vitreous shrinks it exerts
enough force on the retina to make it tear.
Retinal tears increase the chance of developing a retinal
detachment. Fluid vitreous, passing through the tear, lifts the retina off the
back of the eye like wallpaper peeling off a wall. Laser surgery or cryotherapy
(freezing) are often used to seal retinal tears and prevent detachment.
If the retina is detached, it must be reattached before
sealing the retinal tear. There are three ways to repair retinal detachments.
Pneumatic retinopexy involves injecting a special gas bubble into the eye that
pushes on the retina to seal the tear. The scleral buckle procedure requires
the fluid to be drained from under the retina before a flexible piece of
silicone is sewn on the outer eye wall to give support to the tear while it
heals. Vitrectomy surgery removes the vitreous gel from the eye, replacing it
with a gas bubble, which is slowly replaced by the body's fluids.