Retinal Tear vs. Detachment

Retinal tears and detachments are related eye conditions that can become very serious, even leading to blindness. Retinal tears are common, with nearly one in ten people developing one at some point during their lifetime. Retinal detachments, on the other hand, are less common, occurring in approximately one in 300 people. Keep reading to learn about each condition and how they are different from each other.

What is the Retina?

Before we dive into retinal tears and detachments, it will be helpful to understand the retina and its primary functions. The retina is a layer of ocular tissues that converts light into nerve impulses. Simply put, the retina sends and receives information so that you can see. Retinal issues can lead to vision loss and, when left untreated, blindness.

As a person ages, the vitreous, the gel that flows within the eye, may disconnect from the retina without incident or symptoms. This process is entirely normal and doesn’t typically affect vision. However, sometimes this disconnection can lead to retinal problems, such as tears or detachments.

Retinal Tears

If the separation of the vitreous material pulls on the retina, it can create a small tear in the retina. Less commonly, retinal tears can result from eye injury or trauma. Individuals with the following characteristics or medical history may be more predisposed to retinal tears:

Advanced age
Moderate to severe nearsightedness
Family history of retinal tears
Past eye surgery, especially cataract surgery

Symptoms of a Retinal Tear

There are a few common side effects that an individual developing or suffering from a retinal tear might experience. Flashes of light and floaters are two of the most common symptoms of retinal tears.

Retinal tears don’t always present symptoms, which is one reason why annual eye exams are so important. Even if you don’t suspect any retinal issues, an ophthalmologist will be able to recognize one when examining your eyes. This can prevent further retinal damage.

Treating Retinal Tears

Some retinal tears, especially those that aren’t accompanied by any symptoms, resolve on their own, without any treatment. An ophthalmologist will be able to determine whether or not a tear requires treatment, or if close supervision will suffice. When treatment is required, cryopexy is the most common and effective method. During this procedure, ocular tissue is frozen in order to create scar tissue and hold the retina in place.

Laser surgery is another method of treating retinal tears.

Retinal Detachments

Like retinal tears, retinal detachments result from vitreous movement or eye trauma. They can also result from an untreated tear that has allowed fluid to make its way between the retina and underlying tissue. Unlike retinal tears, detachments are more serious. For this reason, it is critical to schedule an appointment with a trusted ophthalmologist as soon as you experience any vision changes or discomfort.

Symptoms of Retinal Detachment

Unlike retinal tears, retinal detachments are always accompanied by symptoms. Symptoms include flashers, floaters, blurred vision, and loss of peripheral vision.

Treating Retinal Detachments

Surgery is required to repair retinal detachments, but the type of surgery will depend on the severity of the detachment. Scleral buckling, pneumatic retinopexy, and vitrectomy are three common surgeries that can treat retinal detachments.

Scleral Buckling
A procedure in which an eye surgeon uses silicone to reconnect the retina to the walls of the eye and its underlying tissue.

Pneumatic Retinopexy
A technique that involves placing a small gas bubble within the eye to push the retina back in place as tissue heals around it.

A procedure that removes the vitreous gel and replaces it with a sterile saltwater solution. This helps flatten the retina.

Eye Care in Austin, Texas

Retinal tear and detachment are serious eye conditions that can threaten your sight and ocular health. The ophthalmologists at Broberg Eye Care can be your first line of defense by providing screening for these conditions. If you live in Austin or the surrounding area, contact us today to learn more.

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