If your vision changes suddenly, you see flashes of light or it looks like a spider web is covering part of your eye, don’t ignore it! It could be a detached retina which needs immediate attention. You should contact your eye doctor immediately.
A detached retina is when the retina, a light sensitive thin layer of nerve fibers toward the back of the eye, separates from its normal position. In some cases, the retina may be torn, and these tears can cause the detachment. Vitreous fluid, a gel-like substance, can leak into the area between the retina and the back wall of the eye, which can cause the retina to pull away or detach.
There is no pain associated with retinal detachment but this is a serious issue that can cause loss of vision. The sooner you contact your doctor, the better chance you will have of being treated and fully healing.
Signs and Symptoms
If you see any of the several warning signs for detached retina, you should contact your doctor immediately. Spots, floaters, flashes of light, sudden blurry or poor vision, or a shadow or web that seems to fall over your eye are all signs that the retina may be tearing, which can lead to detachment.
Who’s at Risk
Retinal detachments can happen to anyone, but they become more common after the age of 40. Extreme myopia, or nearsightedness, can be a cause, and there is increased risk with eye surgery, eye injuries, retinal detachment in the other eye, family history of retinal issues, cataract surgery, and diabetes.
Laser photocoagulation or a freezing probe called cryopexy can help repair small retinal tears, but surgery is required to repair a fully detached retina. Surgical reattachment isn’t always successful though, and immediate treatment greatly increases your odds of regaining any vision you may have lost. Generally, the surgery is more successful if the detachment is limited to the peripheral retina and not the macula.
Always be aware of the warning signs of a detached retina! If you experience any of the warning signs noted above, contact your doctor immediately. You should also be aware if your family has a history of retinal problems, and you should always have your eyes thoroughly checked after any sort of eye injury. If you are nearsighted, be sure to have regular, dilated eye exams. And always wear protective eyewear during sports and other hazardous activities.