The retina is a thin layer of tissue that lines the inner posterior (back) portion of the eye. It consists of cells called photoreceptors, or rods and cones. These cells transmit light from the eye to the brain where it is perceived as vision. During a retinal detachment, the retina partially or completely peels away from the back of the eye. Once it is detached, the retina stops working and light signals cannot get back to the brain to be processed. To the patient, some degree of vision loss occurs. Depending on the severity of the detachment, vision loss can be severe and permanent.
Some causes of a retinal detachment are: injury to the eye, blow to the head, eye diseases and eye surgery. Also conditions such as diabetes and excessive nearsightedness or myopia can be factors or causes of retinal detachment. For unknown reasons, some patients may simply have areas where their retina is thinned. These areas could potentially lead to spontaneous retinal detachments.
If your Optometrist detects retinal detachment during their examination, they will refer you to an ophthalmologist. Treating a retinal detachment involves surgery. The goal of the surgery is to first reattach the affected retina and to secondly prevent further vision loss. If there are areas of retinal weakening, such as retinal holes or tears, even without a detachment, an ophthalmologist may elect to stabilize the retina using freezing or a laser to decrease the chance of a retinal detachment occurring. (Note: this laser is not the same laser used to correct vision.) The longer a patient waits to have a retinal detachment repaired, the lower the success rate of the surgery.
If you are experiencing any loss of vision it is important that you make an appointment with your optometrist as soon as possible to ensure this vision loss is not permanent.