A retinal detachment is a true eye emergency. It occurs when the retinal tissue separates from the back of the eye. It can occur as a result of trauma to the head or eyes and/or due to certain congenital anomalies. Also, as one gets older, the vitreous, the clear gel-like substance that fills the inside of the eye, tends to shrink slightly and take on a more watery consistency. Sometimes as the vitreous shrinks it exerts enough force on the retina to make it tear.
To help you visualize how the retina attaches to the back of the eye, think about how wallpaper adheres to a wall. Just as wallpaper would look strange if part or all of it were not attached to the wall, the retina needs to be completely attached to the inner lining of the eye in order to function well. If the retina is not smoothly and completely attached to the lining of the eye, it is cut off from the blood vessels that provide it with oxygen and nourishment.
Typically, there is no pain associated with a detached retina; however, the occurrence of the following symptoms serves as a warning that detachment is occurring:
- The sudden appearance of many floaters — small bits of debris in your field of vision that look like spots, hairs or strings and seem to float before your eyes
- Sudden flashes of light in the affected eye
- A shadow or curtain over a portion of your visual field that develops as the detachment progresses
If you are experiencing an increased amount of floaters or flashes of light, please call our office immediately for an appointment with Dr. Saeed. If he is not in the office, our staff will refer you to another area doctor who can evaluate your condition. However, if you wake up with sudden vision loss or experience vision loss after a blow to the head (such as during a car accident or sporting accident), please proceed to your nearest emergency room.