What is a retinal tear?
The retina is the part of the back of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses. This information is sent to our brains, where it is converted into the images that we can see.
The middle of the eye is filled with a clear jelly called the vitreous, which is attached to the retina. As we get older, the vitreous may shrink and begin to pull on the retina. If this goes on for an extended period of time, a retinal tear may occur.
What are the risk factors?
Anyone can develop a retinal tear. There is no way of knowing when one may occur. Risk factors are not necessary but include advanced age, degree of nearsightedness, trauma, prior eye surgery, family history of retinal tears or detachment, and associated lattice degeneration as addressed in our most recent blog post.
What are the symptoms?
Tearing of the retina is often associated with a sudden onset of black spots known as “floaters”. Another common symptom is photopsia, or seeing flashes of light. Sometimes, a retinal tear may occur simultaneously with a vitreous hemorrhage in which one would experience blurred vision or a shadow, often described as a curtain closing in front of the affected eye.
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How is a retinal tear diagnosed?
A thorough examination by a retina specialist using a special lens is the best way to diagnose a retinal tear. Sometimes, hemorrhages or other obstructions may prevent the eye doctor’s ability to see the tear. Because of this, an ophthalmic ultrasound may also be required to aid in diagnosis.
What are the treatment options?
If a retinal tear is recognized by an eye doctor before it turns into a retinal detachment, then treatment outcomes can be extremely favorable. Retinal tears are typically treated with a laser. In this procedure, the surgeon directs a laser beam into the eye to create a series of scars around the retinal tear. This creates a barrier that prevents the tear from becoming worse.
Not all retinal tears require treatment. When low-risk tears are identified with patients who show no symptoms, treatment is not always necessary.