retinal tear prevention mornington peninsula eye clinic

Is Retinal Tear Prevention Possible? Symptoms, & Treatments

Even with limited knowledge of what the retina is, the prospect of a retinal tear or detachment can cause some anxiety. Keep reading to find out what is involved in retinal tears and detachments and whether they can be prevented. 


What is the Retina? 

The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue lining the back of the eye. Without healthy, functioning retinal tissue, we would not be able to perceive light or vision. 

Eye diseases involving the retina, including retinal tears, retinal detachment, and other conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration, can cause permanent vision loss. 


What Causes a Retinal Detachment or Tear?

There can be a number of different causes of a retinal detachment or tear. The most common of these are natural changes to the eye as it ages or an eye injury. 

In the back space of the eyeball is a gel known as the vitreous gel. As you age, this gel liquefies around the retina, pulling at points where the two are attached. If the vitreous is unable to separate neatly from the retina during this process, it can cause retinal breaks such as a tear, hole, or retinal detachment. 


difference retinal detachment and tearHow is a Retinal Detachment Different from a Tear?

A tear to the retina is a break in the retinal tissue, whereas a retinal detachment involves the separation of the retina from the eye wall. A popular analogy for retinal detachments is like wallpaper peeling away from the wall. 

If the retina detaches from the back of the eye, it is unable to receive the critical oxygen and metabolic support it needs from blood vessels to function. This leads to vision loss. A retinal detachment can involve anything from a very small area of the retina to the entire retinal tissue. 


Symptoms of Retinal Detachments and Tears

Small retinal breaks in your peripheral vision may go entirely unnoticed by you. It is not uncommon for a tear or hole in the retina to be diagnosed during a routine dilated eye exam of the back of your eye with an optometrist or eye doctor. 

Warning signs of a tear or detachment can include:

  • Sudden eye floaters
  • Flashes of light 
  • An area of vision loss 
  • The sensation of a curtain or shadow falling across your vision

If your retinal detachment involves a macular detachment, you will experience a sudden and profound loss of your central vision. If the area of the detached retina does not involve the macula, you may still be able to see reasonably well. 


Risk Factors for Retinal Detachment

A retinal detachment can happen to anyone at any time. However, there are some circumstances that are known to increase your risk of experiencing a retinal detachment or tear. 

Risk factors for a retinal detachment or tear include:

  • A family history of retinal detachment 
  • Older age
  • A history of serious eye injury 
  • Previous eye surgery 
  • Diabetic retinopathy (a disease of the retina caused by poorly controlled diabetes)
  • High short-sightedness (myopia)
  • Other compromises to your eye health, such as lattice degeneration (areas of retinal thinning)



Can I Prevent Retinal Detachment?

It is not possible to prevent retinal detachment entirely, particularly as a major cause of retinal detachment is simply getting older and the liquifying of the vitreous gel at the back of your eye. 


Reducing Your Risk of a Tear Becoming a Retinal Detachment

However, it is possible to take steps to reduce your risk of a retinal detachment, such as preventive retinal tear repair to stop it from progressing to a detached retina. Not all tears require this treatment; small retinal tears can just be monitored. 

If your eye doctor believes your tear is at higher risk for developing into a retinal detachment, he or she may recommend preventative laser surgery. This involves using a medical laser to create tiny burns in precise areas of the retina in a procedure called laser photocoagulation. The body’s natural healing process creates scar tissue, which helps to adhere the edges of the torn retina to the back of your eye. 

Another preventative procedure is a freezing treatment known as cryopexy. This involves using a probe to freeze the tissue, again to induce scar formation. 

The same laser treatment can be applied to areas of lattice degeneration if your eye doctor thinks there is a high risk of a retinal detachment in this area. 


Other Ways to Prevent Permanent Vision Loss from a Retinal Detachment

If a retinal detachment receives prompt treatment, you can reduce your risk of permanent vision loss. Permanent vision impairment in your periphery may be manageable, but if a macular detachment occurs, it may not be possible to regain central vision, and the effects can be debilitating. 

preventing vision loss retinal detachmentKnow the warning signs of retinal detachment. Flashes of light or a sudden increase in floating specks and lines in your vision should not be ignored; a retinal detachment is a medical emergency and requires the immediate attention of retina specialists. 

You can also reduce your risk of retinal detachment by wearing protective goggles or other eyewear when engaging in activities with a risk of eye injury. 

An easy way of having an impending retinal detachment diagnosed is simply to attend for your regular check-ups with your eye doctor or optometrist.

A dilated eye exam allows your eye care professional to thoroughly assess your eye health and diagnose retinal detachment or tears early. 


Treatment for Retinal Detachment 

If you suffer a retinal detachment, your eye doctor will recommend prompt treatment. You may need to be referred to the care of retinal specialists if your usual eye doctor is unable to perform a retinal detachment repair. 

A retinal detachment can be treated using a scleral buckle. This involves surgically attaching a silicon band around the outside of the eyeball to push the eye wall inward against the detached retina, allowing it to reattach. 

Another treatment involves the injection of a gas bubble into the eye to push the retina back into its normal position. Laser surgery can then be applied to adhere the retina to the back of your eye. 

Early diagnosis and treatment of a retinal detachment or tear generally carry a good prognosis, with many people achieving good vision post-operatively. 



Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.





Retinal Tears & Detachments

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Preventing Retinal Detachment



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