What is a Retinal Detachment?

The retina is the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye– it is the “film in the camera” A retinal detachment occurs when the retina moves away from its normal position.  When the retina detaches, it loses its function due to a lack of nutrients. This is a serious condition and may result in blindness unless it is treated.

The middle of the eye is filled by the vitreous, a gel-like substance. With time it normally pulls away from the retina causing nil long term problems. However in some people it pulls so hard on the retina it causes a retinal tear and this can be the start of a retinal detachment.

What are the symptoms?

Some of the early symptoms that may indicate the presence of a retinal detachment include:

  • Sudden appearance of flashing lights.  These are bright and very rapid flashes.
  • Changes to existing floaters or new floaters, or a sudden onset of floaters.
  • Having a shadow appear in the visual field.
  • A black or grey “curtain” moving across the field of vision.
  • Sudden decrease in vision.

Who is at risk?

The following conditions may increase the risk of developing a retinal detachment:

  • Increasing age
  • Near sightedness (Myopia)
  • Previous retinal detachment in the other eye
  • Family history of retinal detachment
  • Trauma

How is it diagnosed?

Dr Hilford will perform a comprehensive dilated examination of your eyes.

What are the treatment options?

Surgery will be required in order to put the retina back into its proper position and it is often urgent treatment to prevent further vision loss.

Vitrectomy: this surgical procedure is used to repair a retinal detachment. Through tiny incisions in the sclera (white part of the eye), small instruments are placed inside the eye in order to fix the retinal detachment. If required, Dr Hilford will discuss this procedure with you in considerable detail.

Scleral buckle: in this surgical procedure a silicone band (scleral buckle) is placed around the outside of the eye to counteract the force pulling the retina out of place.  The band gently makes an indent in the eye and pushes the retina into its normal position against the back of the eye.  The band is placed behind the muscles that move the eye and is not visible to other people. The scleral buckle is usually permanent and the procedure may be used in combination with vitrectomy. If required, Dr Hilford will discuss this procedure with you in considerable detail.