Retinal tears occur in the retina, which is the thin lining in the back of your eye that helps you see. The retina is normally attached to the eye using a gel-like substance, called the vitreous. When this gel starts to pull away at the retina, it causes a retinal tear. This can also cause bleeding in the eye if there are also blood vessels present in the area. Retinal tears need to be treated in a timely manner and with proper treatment, otherwise, they can have serious impacts on your long-term vision and can lead to a more serious condition called retinal detachment. A retinal tear can safely be treated with laser surgery.
About Retinal Tears
Retinal tears are typically painless. However, retinal tears may cause intermittent flashing lights, floaters, or a shower of black dots. Flashing light symptoms may be more intense with eye movement. Usually, floaters are more noticeable if you are in strong light. Some people may experience a number of different symptoms, while others may not notice anything.
Retinal tears can happen at any age but will be more common in the elderly. The separation can be a natural part of the aging process in the eye. Tears are more common for people who are near-sighted and in those where there is a family history of retinal tears or retinal detachments. Those that have already had a previous retinal tear may be more likely to experience another one.
Laser Surgery for Retinal Tears
The small holes and tears in the retina are treated with surgery. The procedure will be done in the office with local anesthesia. During the treatment, the laser is used to create tiny burns around the retinal tear. Then the healing that happens after the spot is treated helps prevent the tear from becoming a full-blown retinal detachment. Occasionally, it’s not possible to use laser treatment depending on the location of the tear.
Healing after Laser Surgery for Retinal Tear
After laser surgery, the healing process takes anywhere from one week to four. It can take up to a full week for the treatment to fully seal the tear, but it’s important to pay attention to anything that can go wrong once it is sealed. In order to make sure that your eye properly heals, it’s also important to limit daily activity and avoid doing anything strenuous for about a month after your surgery. This will give your eye enough time to heal and recover properly, and it further helps reduce the risk of another tear or further eye damage.
You may get eye drops after surgery to help prevent infection. You may also have to wear a patch over the eye in order to avoid any unnecessary exposure to your eye. It can be normal if you have redness around the eye, swollen or inflamed eyes, or blurred vision after the surgery.
How to Improve Your Recovery at Home
It may feel overwhelming at first with directions on how to care for your retinal tear, but your eye surgeon will give you tips on how to continue your recovery and stay safe at home after surgery. In order to properly heal and protect your vision, the best thing you can do is be sure to follow these instructions closely.
When you do get home, you may notice that you have a loss of peripheral vision, see floaters or flashing lights, or have other vision changes during your recovery period. If you continue to follow your recovery plan instructions, then these symptoms will just be temporary and should continue to improve as time goes on.
If you have a laser treatment where intraocular gas is used then you should follow precautions in the following two to six weeks when the gas is in the eye. You should not go on any airplane or have any nitrous oxide used for another procedure with anesthesia since the intraocular gas can then expand and damage the eye. You may need to keep your head in a certain position since proper head positioning will allow the gas bubble to push your retina back into place. Your eye doctor will explain which positions are more conducive to your recovery and which activities are best to avoid in order to prevent any damage to your eye.
What to Focus on When Home After Surgery
While your instructions may vary depending on your eye surgeon and specific recovery, there are some general things you can do to help.
- Avoid doing strenuous activities, such as gardening, cleaning, or heavy lifting, as well as any quick head movements
- Depending on your job, you may want to take a few weeks off work.
- You should only be driving if your vision allows you to. Don’t get behind the wheel if you are still experiencing any temporary vision disturbances.
- You should be able to continue your typical diet, but if you do have an upset stomach after the surgery then you may need to focus on some different foods to help, such as low-fat foods.
- Speak with your eye surgeon about continuing any medication you are normally on and if you should continue them while you recover from surgery. Your surgeon should also help you determine if you need to start any new medications to aid in recovery.
- You should properly use the eye drops you are given to make sure you are preventing infection.
- To help with any swelling you may have, you can use a cold pack on the eye for 20 minutes at a time.
- When you are washing your face or showering, be extra careful to not get soap in the eye.
- Sunglasses may be necessary during the day, especially if you aren’t using a protective covering or eye patch.
In the weeks after your surgery, you should continue to monitor your vision and the area where the tear occurred to prevent any long-term vision loss. If you do have any symptoms of vision changes or symptoms of retinal detachment, you want to make sure you speak with your eye surgeon quickly.
When to Call Your Ophthalmologist
Recovery may not always be a smooth process and you could be in discomfort in the days and weeks following your procedure and the vitreous gel reattaches and the retina heals. While you may not have any vision changes, you still want to make sure that you don’t become complacent and follow the directions of your eye surgeon to prevent any eye problems in the future. There are some signs that you should call your eye surgeon for a follow-up appointment.
- If you start to experience symptoms of an eye infection. Symptoms can include pain in the eye, something that feels like a foreign body, watery, bloody, green, or yellow discharge from the eye, and increasing redness of the eyelids or eye.
- If you have eye pain.
- If you have continued vision changes, flashing lights or floaters.
- If you have any signs of blood clotting in your leg.
- Long-Term Impacts of Retinal Tears on Vision
Many retinal tears happen in the far peripheral retina, which is a part of the retina that is not normally used to see. If this type of tear occurs, then there won’t be any noticeable changes to your peripheral vision from the tear or the surgery treatment. The laser treatment won’t treat any flashing lights or floaters, and if you do experience these then they will gradually improve on their own in the coming weeks or months.
Contact Florida Eye Specialists & Cataract Institute
Even though there may be no long-term impacts from retinal tears, they still need to be treated properly. If you do notice any symptoms of retinal tear and changes in your vision, it’s important to contact us at Florida Eye Specialists & Cataract Institute for prompt treatment. Since retinal tears may not present with any symptoms, be sure you schedule regular eye appointments so your eye doctor can notice if there are any issues with your eyes. Regular eye checkups are even more important as you age since retinal tears can be a normal part of the eye aging process. Contact us today for an appointment.