The human eye acts like a projector and a movie screen. Light and images enter the pupil, where they go through the lens. The lens focuses the images on the retina, which is like a movie screen on the back of the eye. Our optic nerves turn these images into electrical impulses, and the brain interprets what we are seeing.
Without the delicate retina, there would be no vision. Some conditions cause the retina to tear away from the back of the eye. Torn retina symptoms are quite serious and need immediate medical attention. Torn retinas are uncommon and may affect 1 in every 10,000 people in America. If the patient does not go under surgery as soon as possible, the person can go permanently blind. It is imperative to know the warning signs of a torn retina. Sight depends on it.
What Is a Torn Retina?
Torn retina symptoms can occur at any age; however, it more commonly occurs in people over 40. The eyeball is filled with a gelatinous fluid called vitreous. It acts as a protection for the eye, as well as for hydration. If the retina gets a little hole or tear in it, vitreous fluid slowly leaks behind it and detaches the retina from the back of the eye. Trauma or eye surgery can cause torn retina symptoms. Sometimes, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the vitreous fluid may shrink and tug at the retina, causing tears or sudden retinal detachment.
describe flashes of light, a profusion of floaters, or sometimes partial blindness when their retina tears or slips.
The best way to prevent torn retina symptoms is to have periodic checkups with the ophthalmologist. The doctor can see micro tears and holes, and fix them before they become a bigger issue. Experts also recommend that people wear safety glasses when working with tools and other machinery.
What’s more, genetics may also play a role in torn retina symptoms, as well as detached retinas. A study conducted in the UK by Addenbrooke’s NHS Trust showed a correlation between genetics and Stickler Syndrome, a common cause for juvenile retinal detachment. The study’s future goal is to compile more data and see if they can single out a genetic risk factor.
12 Causes of Torn Retinas
- Trauma: If the eye receives blunt-force trauma or puncture wounds, the retina can tear.
- Surgery: Some eye surgeries, such as for cataracts, weaken the walls of the eyeball and cause tears or detachment of the retina.
- Age: Many bodily fluids, including vitreous fluids, diminish as people get older. As vitreous fluids shrink, it may cause a small vacuum that can pull at the retina. As a result, it causes torn retina symptoms or detachment.
- If there are any holes or tears in the retina, vitreous fluid can seep behind the retina and push it away from the back surface of the eyeball.
- Diseases such as glaucoma put internal pressure on the eye and can damage the retina.
- Genetic: Some studies show that there are people who are predisposed to torn or detached retinas.
- Diabetic eye disorders can affect blood vessels and cause torn retina symptoms.
- Eye disorders caused by sickle-cell disease can also affect the retina.
- Tumors of the eyes can put pressure on the eye and cause the retina to slip.
- Problems with the blood vessels of the retina may cause tears.
- Inflammation of the eyeball puts pressure on the back of the eyes and can cause torn retina symptoms.
- Congenital defects in the eyes may also include the retina.
Treatment of Torn Retinas
The only viable treatment for torn or detached retinas is surgery. The eye surgeon will discuss what surgical options would be the best for the patient. Here are some common retinal repair surgeries:
If there is a tear or hole in the retina, and it is still attached, the eye surgeon may suggest these procedures:
- Laser surgery: Using a laser beam, the surgeon outlines the tear in the retina and virtually welds in back into place.
- Freezing: This procedure also quickly builds a scar that closes up the tear and secures the retina back to the eye’s wall.
These procedures are done under local anesthetic on an outpatient basis. Patients are usually ready for normal activity after a couple of weeks.
- Pneumatic retinopexy: The surgeon injects air into the patient’s eye to form a pressure bubble. This bubble causes pressure in the vitreous cavity, which stops the flow of fluid behind the retina. This fluid will eventually dry up and the retina will reattach itself. The bubble will naturally reabsorb soon.
- Scleral Buckling: Using a strip of silicone, the surgeon will sew a belt over the affected area of the eye. This strip relieves pressure that is caused by vitreous fluid pulling on the retina. If the damage to the retina is extensive, the doctor will place a whole silicone belt around the eye. It does not block the field of vision for the patient. The silicone is small and virtually invisible and it will stay on for life.
- Vitrectomy: Sometimes, the best procedure is for the eye surgeon to completely drain the eye cavity from vitreous fluid and remove invasive tissue. The doctor will inject air or silicone oil into the cavity to put the retina back into place. Air or liquid will soon be absorbed and replaced with body fluid. Silicone oil must be surgically drained after an extended period of time.
Nonetheless, even with these innovative treatments, many patients must have the procedure repeated. In a few cases, the doctor can restore normal sight. However, most patients continue to have some degree of vision problems.
Tears and detachment of the retina can jeopardize the sight of anyone who experiences them. Consequently, patients who have a history of this eye disorder in themselves or their immediate family should always make routine visits to the eye doctor. This recommendation also includes those with medical conditions that affect the eyes.
Once the retina gets a tear or detaches, there is no medication that will fix it. Depending on the type of defect, the eye surgeon has several surgical options to fix the problem. At the most, the doctor can save what sight is left and prevent further damage.