photo of woman getting an eye exam

The retina is an important part of the eye and if it becomes damaged then it can lead to loss of vision that can become permanent. It’s a light-sensitive thin tissue found in the back of the eye. Part of getting treatment for retina conditions is knowing what condition you have.

Retinal Tears

A retinal tear is a small rip in the tissue. With this condition, the retina hasn’t fully detached but there are some parts of it that are no longer attached to the back of the eye as they should be normally. A retinal tear may still cause a retinal detachment.

Retinal Tear Causes

Common causes of retinal tears involve the vitreous gel that is within the eyes. Sometimes this gel attaches to the retina and then pulls on it over time. The pull of the gel can cause tears along the retina. Physical trauma to the eye can also contribute to or cause a retinal tear.

Symptoms and Signs of Retinal Tears

It’s possible for a retinal tear to form without you noticing any signs. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Dimmer or darker vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Black spots in field of vision
  • Sudden appearance of floaters
  • Flashes of light

Diagnosing a Retinal Tear

A retinal specialist will use scleral depression in order to help diagnose a retinal tear. This is applying some slight pressure to the eye and using a three-mirror lens to diagnose. In some cases, there may be limited view of the retina because of hemorrhage and an ophthalmic ultrasound may be necessary to help diagnose a retinal tear.

Treatment of Retinal Tears

Treatment for a retinal tear can depend on how severe the tear is. If it’s low risk, it may not require treatment and you can get by with some monitoring and adjustments to your lifestyle in order to promote wellness and healing. Some tears can treat themselves and there will be an adhesion that develops around the tear. However, if this is the case, treatment may also still be necessary. Retinal tears can also be treated with cryotherapy. This freezing procedure will help weld the torn part of the retina back to where it belongs. A local anesthetic is used and the procedure is only slightly uncomfortable. After a retinal tear is treated, there is still the risk of some future tears developing so continued monitoring is important. A previous tear can put you at risk for retinal detachment even after it is treated.

Retinal Detachment

Unlike a tear, retinal detachment means the full detachment of the tissue from the back of the eye. This is a much more severe condition. The longer your retina remains detached from the back of your eye, the higher your risk of permanent vision loss.

Retinal Detachment Causes

Retinal detachments are typically caused by the vitreous gel tugging at your retina and then pulling away from the back of the eye. Over time, scar tissue can build up on the retina and cause detachment. Fluid can also accumulate under the retina over a period of time and this can lead to a higher risk of detachment. Just like with tears, physical eye trauma can also contribute to retinal detachment.

Symptoms and Signs of Retinal Detachment

The symptoms of retinal tears and detachment are similar. Both conditions are typically painless and just lead to some changes in your vision. Symptoms for retinal detachment include blurry vision, as well as:

  • Dimmer or dark vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Sudden appearance of floaters
  • Sudden flashes of light
  • Black spots in your field of vision

Diagnosing Retinal Detachment

In order to diagnose retinal detachment, a comprehensive examination is used. An ophthalmologist will dilate the pupil in order to see if there are tears in the retina and if there is any fluid. There can also be some hemorrhage with a retinal detachment and this happens when there is a tear that involves a retinal blood vessel.

Retinal Detachment Treatment

Laser therapy or cryotherapy can be used to help put the detached part of the retina back in place. Treatment will depend on the certain characteristics of the detachment such as the location and number of tears that lead to the detachment, as well as patient characteristics such as past eye surgery and age.

Detachment can also be treated using a gas bubble inserted in the eye known as pneumatic retinopexy. This gas bubble helps push the detached retinal tissue back. After this procedure, you will need to keep your head in a specific position for a week in order to make sure that the tear is sealed.

There are some other procedures that can be used, such as scleral buckle surgery and vitrectomy surgery. Scleral buckle surgery is done in the operating room and uses a soft piece of silicone sutured to the eye wall to help support and close the tear. It is used with laser procedures and can be combined with vitrectomy surgery. Vitrectomy surgery is also done in the operating room. It involves surgically removing the vitreous gel that is pulling on the retinal tear and causing the detachment. A laser is then used to seal the tear and the eye will be filled with silicone oil or gas. Oil won’t go away on its own but the gas will. If silicone oil is used then it may be removed at a later date with another procedure. Since using silicone oil requires another procedure it is usually only done for patients with severe detachments, such as those with large tears or with other scar tissue in the retina.

Risk Factors for Retinal Detachment and Retinal Tears

There are some things that can increase both your risk for retinal tears and detachment. These factors include:

  • Extreme myopia, also known as nearsightedness
  • Previous eye disease that was severe
  • Previous eye surgeries
  • Previous eye injuries
  • Advanced age (both conditions are more common in adults age 50 or older)
  • Previous retinal tears or detachment
  • Family history of detachment

How to Prevent a Retinal Tear from Turning into a Retinal Detachment

Retinal tears can be dangerous on their own but can also be the beginning stages of a detachment. Getting prompt treatment for a tear can help prevent it from turning into a full detachment and having a permanent impact on your vision.

It’s helpful to know the signs of retinal tears since everyone can get occasional floaters in their eyes. Most of the time if this happens, you will only see one or two of them. If you see a sudden increase in floaters, such as ones that look like a curtain or shower, this can mean a tear or detachment. If you do notice any of the symptoms of retinal tear, you should speak with an eye doctor right way.

Reduce your risk of tears, as well as other eye problems, by protecting your eye. Since physical trauma to the eye can lead to both tears and detachments, you should always wear protective goggles when you are doing any DIY projects or playing contact sports, such as baseball, lacrosse, hockey, or basketball. Keeping track of your overall health is also important. Conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to many eye problems so it’s important to get these under control. Getting moderate exercise and eating a healthy diet can also help protect your health, which protects your eyes.

Even if you don’t have vision problems that require contact lenses or glasses, it’s still important to have routine eye exams. This is a vital part of protecting your vision and eye health. Most eye problems or disease don’t cause any symptoms, especially in early stages. If there are changes to the vitreous gel or any retinal weakness that could one day lead to a tear, you won’t know about this until it’s too late without proper vision exams. If you are concerned that you may have a tear, don’t hesitate to reach out. The faster you see an eye doctors and get treatment, the better you can protect your vision.

Contact Retina Specialists at Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute

Prompt medical care is necessary in order to save your vision after a retinal tear or detachment. If you have any of the symptoms of either condition, contact the specialist at Florida Eye today in order to receive a diagnosis and treatment to protect your vision. We use the most advanced technologies and have convenient locations to serve you.