Our eyes are amazing, complex organs, but there are a lot of ways for things to go wrong.
One that we want to educate our patients on today is retinal detachment. This is a serious, sight-threatening condition that affects 1 in every 300 people at some point in their lives, but it can be treated with early enough action. Before that can happen, patients have to be able to recognize the signs.
How the Retina Works
The retina is the part of the eye that converts light into signals that go to the brain so that we can see. It consists of a network of specialized photoreceptor cells called rods and cones, and it’s made up of two layers. The inner layer is where all the rods and cones are, and the outer layer, called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), is a kind of filter that supports and nourishes the rods and cones and holds them in place on the back of the eye.
What Is Retinal Detachment?
Retinal detachment is pretty much what it sounds like. The layer of rods and cones peels away from the RPE. The most common cause is when a hole develops in the retina and fluid from the eye creeps between the two layers, but it can also happen as a complication of trauma, infection, or eye surgery. Retinal detachment needs to be treated immediately, because it leads to permanent vision loss in the affected eye.
Retinal Detachment Risk Factors
Some people are more likely than others to develop retinal detachment. The biggest risk factor is age, because as we grow older, the fluid in our eyes shrinks, and 10-15 percent of the time, this causes a tear in the retina. Other risk factors include:
- Extreme near-sightedness
- Cataract removal, especially if the lens is not replaced
- Previous retinal detachment in one eye
- Marfan’s syndrome
- Injuries in contact sports and activities like paintball
Symptoms of Retinal Detachment
Retinal detachment is usually not painful, but be on the watch for the following symptoms and get to an eye doctor quickly if you notice them — particularly if you notice more than one:
- Sudden flashes of light, particularly when moving the eye
- A sudden increase in the number of floaters in your vision
- A heavy feeling in the eye
- A shadow spreading from the peripheral vision towards the central vision
- A sensation like a transparent curtain is coming down over the field of vision
- Straight lines beginning to appear curved
Keep Up with Your Regular Eye Exams
Regular visits to the eye doctor aren’t just important for keeping your glasses prescription up-to-date. We can also check for early signs of retinal detachment and get it treated before it gets worse and causes permanent vision loss. In the meantime, make sure to protect your eyes with the right eyewear and help them stay strong by eating healthy foods and staying active!