A retinal tear is when part of the retina – the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye responsible for vision – is pulled away and separates from the outer layer of the eye. This immediately begins to cause a gradual loss of vision and overtime can lead to more serious retinal conditions and blindness.
Symptoms of Retinal Tears
Retinal tears are painless. Early warning signs that you may have developed a retinal tear are seeing flashes of light or floaters, which appear like spots of dust or small dots in your field of vision.
Symptoms that indicate the possibility of retinal tears:
- Reduction of vision
- Periphery vision becoming darker, like a shadow. Over time, this darker curtain will move towards the center field of vision
- Sudden appearance of flashes and rapid increase in the number of floaters
For many people, flashes and floaters gradually appear as they age, however, if they appear suddenly or quickly increase at their rate of occurrence, this is a dangerous sign. You may have a retinal tear and need to seek immediate medical attention in order to protect your eyesight.
Causes of Retinal Tears
Retinal tears are more likely to occur for those over the age of 50. As we age, the gel-like fluid inside your eye, called the vitreous, begins to thicken and shrink. This causes the vitreous to pull away from the retina which leads to retinal tears.
The following conditions can place you at higher risk of developing a retinal tear:
- Severe nearsightedness / myopia in one or both eyes
- Recent cataract surgery
- Previous history of retinal detachment
- A family history of retinal detachment
- A recent eye injury
If you are included among these higher risk categories for retinal tears, you should schedule regular eye exams. Comprehensive eye exams can detect weak areas in the retina.
Early detection of a retinal tear is important to protecting your eyesight and preventing the risk of developing more serious retinal conditions.
Diagnosing Retinal Tears
Retinal tears can only be detected during a dilated eye exam by your ophthalmologist or retinal specialist.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a retinal tear, please contact your ophthalmologist or optometrist immediately by telephone. Retinal tears need to be treated quickly in order to prevent further damage.
Treatment of Retinal Tears
If you have been diagnosed as suffering from a retinal tear, it is important that you seek immediate attention and consult a retina specialist for treatment. If left untreated a retinal tear can worsen and eventually lead to retinal detachment and permanent vision loss.
Most retinal tears are treated with laser surgery or cryotherapy to seal the retina in place. Both laser and cryotherapy help to hold the retina in place and prevent fluid from passing through the tear and under the retina.
Both of these corrective retinal procedures are offered at Calgary Retina Consultants as out patient procedures. These treatments cause little or no discomfort and can prevent further damage, such as retinal detachment, from occurring.