What Is a Torn or Detached Retina?

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of our eye. Light rays are focused onto the retina through our cornea, pupil and lens. The retina converts the light rays into impulses that travel through the optic nerve to our brain, where they are interpreted as the images we see. A healthy, intact retina is key to clear vision. The middle of our eye is filled with a clear gel called vitreous that is attached to the retina. Sometimes tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous will cast shadows on the retina, and you may sometimes see small dots, specks, strings or clouds moving in your field of vision. These are called floaters. You can often see them when looking at a plain, light background, like a blank wall or blue sky. As we get older, the vitreous may shrink and pull on the retina. When this happens, you may notice what look like flashing lights, lightning streaks or the sensation of seeing “stars.” These are called flashes

Retinal tear and retinal detachment: Usually, the vitreous moves away from the retina without causing problems. But sometimes the vitreous pulls hard enough to tear the retina in one or more places. Fluid may pass through a retinal tear, lifting the retina off the back of the eye - much as wallpaper can peel off a wall. When the retina is pulled away from the back of the eye like this, it is called a retinal detachment. The retina does not work when it is detached and vision becomes blurry. A retinal detachment is a very serious problem that almost always causes blindness unless it is treated with detached retina surgery.

Retinal Detachment: Who Is At Risk for a Torn or Detached Retina? People with the following conditions have an increased risk for retinal detachment: Nearsightedness;Previous cataract, glaucoma or other eye surgery; Glaucoma medications that make the pupil small (like pilocarpine)Severe eye injury; Previous retinal detachment in the other eye; Family history of retinal detachment; Weak areas in the retina that can be seen by an ophthalmologist during an eye exam.. Know your risks. Save your sight. If you have risk factors for retinal detachment, know the warning signs and seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these signs. If you are very nearsighted or if you have a family history of retinal problems, be sure to have complete dilated eye exams on a regular basis. And always wear protective eyewear when playing sports or engaging in any other hazardous activities. If you have a serious eye injury, see your ophthalmologist right away for an exam.

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