Retinal detachment is difficult to prevent, but prompt treatment may save your vision. Get familiar with how your eyes work so you can recognize symptoms that require emergency care and give yourself the best chance of a full recovery.
The Facts About Retinal Detachment
1. Get to know your retina
The light-sensitive tissue lining the back of your eye is called the retina. The retina converts the images that enter through your eye lens into electrical signals that your brain can interpret.
2. Understand how a retina detaches
Retinal tissue sometimes pulls away from the blood vessels it needs for oxygen and nutrients. Our eyes are filled with a clear vitreous gel between the retina and lens. When that gel shrinks, it can pull and tear the retina creating one common cause of retinal detachment.
3. Spot the warning signs
The most common symptoms include floaters that look like spots and lines before your eyes or sudden flashes of light. You may also feel like a curtain is falling across your vision or you may notice a loss inside vision.
Knowing When to Take Additional Precautions
1. Use extra care after age 50
The vitreous gel in our eyes naturally shrinks with age. Ask your doctor what eye examinations you need and keep all your appointments.
2. Gather your family history
You may be at increased risk if one or more family members have had a detached retina. Put together a family medical history and share it with your doctor.
3. Monitor extreme nearsightedness
Myopic eyes are longer and tend to stretch the retina. Talk with your doctor about your risks.
4. Be vigilant after cataract surgery
Cataract surgery can work wonders, but it can also increase the risk for detached retinas. Let your doctor know what procedures you’ve had done and if there were any complications.
5. Manage diabetes
Advanced diabetes is linked to a specific form of retinopathy. Take your medication and adopt an overall healthy lifestyle.
6. Avoid eye injuries
It’s relatively rare for a blow to the eye to cause retinal detachment. Still, you can lower your odds even more by using safety gear during hazardous work or sports.
Treating Retinal Detachment
1. Get examined immediately.
If you see spots or flashes or experience diminished vision, go to an emergency room or call 911 right away. Painless procedures with an ophthalmoscope or ultrasound can identify the issue and potentially save your vision.
2. Prepare for surgery.
Surgery is required to treat a detached retina. Your doctor will describe the options, and usually include laser surgery, freezing, or injecting an air bubble. These procedures have a high rate of success when performed promptly. Your doctor will advise you on aftercare which may include medication, rest and keeping your head still.
3. Live with holes.
On the other hand, holes can form in the retina as a normal part of aging. Your doctor may advise you that no treatment is needed so long as you remain free of any symptoms.
4. Buy new glasses.
You’ll probably need at least one new pair of glasses after your operation. Today there are prescriptions specifically made to optimize vision for patients who have been treated for a detached retina.
5. Find support.
Even if your vision remains impaired, there are many resources for living better. Reach out to online support groups or resources in your local community. There may be free or discounted transportation services. Enlist the help of your family and friends and modify your home for maximum safety.
Protect your vision by becoming familiar with the signs of retinal detachment. Most surgeries to repair a detached retina are successful, so immediate medical care makes all the difference.
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