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  • Dr. Paurnima Bodhankar

Retinal Detachment

Updated: Mar 11

The retina, an organ in the back side of the eye, is crucial for vision. Retinal detachment is the separation of two layers of tissue in the retina. If not treated right away, it is a highly serious eye disorder that can seriously damage vision. However, the outlook (prognosis) for some kinds of retinal detachment may be quite favourable with prompt diagnosis and treatment, which is typically surgery. What is retinal detachment?

When the inner layer of rods and cones separates from the RPE, it results in retinal detachment (RD). After losing touch with their feeding layer, the light-sensitive cells begin to atrophy and perish.

What is the retina?

When light enters the eye, the lens focuses it on the retina. A picture is created by the retina and delivered to the optic nerve, which sends the image to the brain. It is impossible to create a clear image if the retina is injured or not in the proper position.

There are two primary layers in the retina. Rods and cones are "seeing cells" that make up the inner layer of the retina. These cells respond to light by sending electrical impulses to the brain via the optic nerve. The cones aid in the formation of our colour vision and outdoor vision. Rods aid our night vision. Behind the rods and cones lies a layer of cells called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which is the outer layer. The rods and cones are supported and fed by the RPE. It works as a filter to keep dangerous toxins out of the sensitive cells.

Your centre vision develops in the little region of the retina known as the macula. Its diameter is around 5 mm. The macula has the most rods and cones per unit area. The fovea, which solely has cones, is a region in the macula's centre. Your fovea creates your sharp central vision.

The choroid's tiny blood veins provide the retina with oxygen and nutrients. The choroid and the sensitive retina are separated by a thin barrier called the Bruch's membrane.

When you look at anything, light from that thing goes through your cornea, lens, and retina at the back of your eye.

Retinal detachment causes

What is the most common cause of retinal detachment?

A posterior vitreous detachment is the most typical cause of the retinal break. This is a relatively frequent disorder that affects elderly individuals and is brought on by the vitreous gel, which fills the eye's globe and shrinks and pushes away from the retina. A significant percentage of patients over 60 have a vitreous detachment. The detachment won't often harm the retina, though. In 10 to 15 percent of instances, retinal tears result from vitreous detachment.

Retinal detachment can happen in three different ways:

A tear or hole forms in the retina in this kind of retinal detachment. This may cause vitreous humour, the fluid that makes up the jelly-like centre of the eye, to seep between the retina's two layers (the light-sensitive cell layer and the RPE). These two layers divide as a result (detach). The most typical kind of separation is this one.

Traction retinal detachment

The region of the eye between the vitreous and the rods and cones may develop scar tissue (fibrous tissue) as a result of inflammation, eye surgery, infection, or trauma. The rods and cones may be pulled, lifting off the RPE as a result. This is thought to be a side effect of inflammatory diseases like uveitis.

1. Rhegmatogenous Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment occurs when subretinal fluid accumulates in the potential space between the neurosensory retina and the underlying retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Depending on the mechanism of subretinal fluid accumulation, retinal detachments traditionally have been classified into rhegmatogenous, tractional, and exudative. Rhegmatogenous means a discontinuity or a break. A rhegmatogenous retinal detachment (RRD) occurs when a tear in the retina leads to fluid accumulation with a separation of the neurosensory retina from the underlying RPE; this is the most common type of retinal detachment.

2. Tractional Retinal Detachment

Anytime sub retinal fluid accumulates in the space between the neurosensory retina and the underlying retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a retinal detachment occurs. Depending on the mechanism of sub retinal fluid accumulation, retinal detachments traditionally have been classified into rhegmatogenous, tractional, and exudative.

A tractional retinal detachment (TRD) is the second most common type of retinal detachment after a rhegmatogenous retinal detachment (RRD) and tractional being major cause of diabetic retinopathy.

3. Exudative retinal detachment

In this kind of RD, fluid leaks into the gap between the retina and the RPE from blood vessels in the retina. This can happen as a rare side effect of a number of illnesses, including very extreme high blood pressure, some

malignancies, and specific forms of uveitis. When the underlying illness is successfully treated, exudative RD typically improves dramatically. Retinal detachment symptoms

Symptoms of retinal detachment include:

Flashes of light

At first, you could catch a glimpse of flashing lights. Six out of ten patients with retinal detachment detect this, which is particularly noticeable in low light and in side (peripheral) vision. It can serve as a warning indicator and is believed to be brought on by the retina being pulled.


Floaters commonly manifest as one or more moving, dark dots in your field of view. They can sometimes resemble curved forms or cobwebs. Since floaters are so frequent, having them does not automatically indicate that you have RD. Contact your doctor right away if you notice any new floaters, a rapid rise in their size or number, or floaters and flashes occurring simultaneously.

Vision loss

You can have blurry vision, shadows in your peripheral vision, or a loss of vision that seems like a curtain is covering your eye. You should seek medical attention right away since this is a symptom that the retina is truly detaching.

Are there any complications?

A retinal detachment can cause serious vision impairment in the afflicted eye if it is not treated right away. Sometimes the other eye is also impacted.

Risk factors for retinal detachment

Retinal detachment is more likely with the following:

● older than 50.

● retinal detachment in the past.

● history of retinal detachment in the family.

● Near-sightedness (myopia) (myopia). The risk increases with increasing myopia.

● Prior eye surgery, such as removing a cataract.

● Significant eye injuries in the past.

● Diabetic retinopathy (diabetic retinopathy).

● Marfan disease.

The prevalence of retinal detachment in youngsters is rising as a result of ocular trauma from contact sports and recreational pursuits like paintball.

How long does it take for retinal detachment to

cause blindness?

The period of time it takes for a retinal detachment to result in blindness is unknown. But since blindness can strike suddenly, you must seek medical attention right away or head to the closest eye hospital if you believe you are exhibiting symptoms of retinal detachment. If the retinal detachment is not treated as soon as possible, more of the retina may separate, which raises the possibility of eventual blindness or permanent vision loss. Retinal detachment diagnosis

An eye doctor uses a special lamp to examine the back of your eye to diagnose RD. The professional can examine your vision as well.

You should be sent right away to an eye specialist who can confirm the diagnosis and make arrangements for treatment if your GP suspects RD based on your symptoms or their inspection. Your eye will need to be opened wide (dilated) by the expert using eye drops in order for them to see the retina clearly. Your eyesight will temporarily get blurry as a result of these drops, but this will pass within a few hours.

To diagnose RD, often no more testing are necessary.

The following procedures may be used to see your retina if the doctor is unable to look into your eye adequately, such as if you have a cataract clouding the lens of your eye.

● An ultrasound scan of your eye; or

● An eye scan called optical coherence tomography.

Retinal detachment treatment

Usually, treatment is immediately required. The better the result, the quicker the retinal detachment is addressed. In particular, it is ideal to treat an RD before it spreads to the macula, the retina's most crucial, central area for vision.

The purpose of therapy is to encourage the RPE and retina to reattach, while sealing any tears to preventing them from deteriorating and spreading.

These objectives can be accomplished through a variety of techniques. Depending on the situation, more than one method could be employed on the same person. The method or methods used are determined on the magnitude, precise location, length, severity, and kind of RD.

The procedures that may be considered include the following:

Laser or freezing treatment

A retinal break may be repaired with a delicate laser or by freezing the break (cryotherapy). If no liquid has started to leak behind the tear, this could be enough. Local anaesthetic drops are used in a hospital clinic for treatment. It 'welds' the layers back together by sealing the breach.

Scleral buckling

This procedure is carried out under either local or general anaesthesia. Over the location of the retinal tear, a thin piece of silicone is sewn close to the sclera, the eye's outer wall. As a result, the detached segment is pushed inside by the sclera, which also forces the retina inward. The sclera is "buckled" inward by the silicone during this surgery, which is why it is known as scleral buckling. In rare circumstances, a silicone belt-like band may be wrapped completely around the outer of the eye.

Some of the fluid that has accumulated behind the retina may be evacuated during the procedure. This may improve the retina's ability to reattach. The fluid will, however, eventually be absorbed back into the bloodstream if it is not removed at the moment of surgery.

A gas bubble may be introduced into the vitreous cavity after the silicone or plastic buckle has been secured to maintain the retina flat against the RPE so that it may reattach. Over a few weeks, the gas bubble gradually dissipates.

The silicone buckle is often kept in place permanently on the eye. The buckle cannot be seen by someone gazing at you since it is sewn to the sclera someplace at the rear of the eye.

In addition to laser or freezing therapy, scleral buckling may be used to repair a retinal break.

Pneumatic retinopexy

You could do this while receiving local anaesthesia. A gas bubble is injected by the ophthalmologist into the vitreous cavity of the eye. The detached portion of the retina is forced flat against the RPE by the bubble. This therefore makes it possible for the retina and RPE to permanently reattach.

Over a few weeks, the gas bubble gradually dissipates.

For this therapy to be effective, you must maintain a specific head posture for the most of the day for a few weeks to let the bubble settle in the proper location. Pneumatic retinopexy might not be appropriate for everyone since some people find this to be quite unpleasant. The top portion of the retina is where RDs are most frequently treated. Your head has to be down and forward in order for the bubble to rise and gently push over where the RD is

located. For the few weeks that may be required until the retina is firmly linked back to its correct location, this head adjustment can be laborious and difficult.

In addition to laser or freezing therapy, pneumatic retinopexy may be used to repair a retinal break.


Both local and general anaesthesia are used for this. The vitreous humour, a gel-like fluid, is eliminated. A gas, liquid, or oil is then injected into the empty region, pushing the retina back into position. When the gas ultimately leaves the area, normal bodily fluid produced in the eye takes its place.

When doing a vitrectomy, a scleral buckle may also be used.

You will often receive antibiotic and steroid drops to relieve inflammation and prevent infection after receiving any of these treatments. Additionally, you could require medications to ease the iris muscles and lessen eye pressure.

What is the outlook (prognosis)?

This depends on several factors:

● The length of time that the retina has been detached.

● The cause of the retinal detachment.

● The amount of the retina that is involved.

● Whether the macula is involved.

The majority of your vision should be restored if the RD does not affect the macula and is treated quickly. It might take a few weeks for vision to get better, and glasses might be needed on a long-term basis to help with vision.

The likelihood of therapy successfully recovering your eyesight is significantly reduced if the macula has separated. In around 4 out of 10 cases of macular detachment, usable vision can be restored. They often have younger patients and have experienced macula detachment for a shorter time. Some functional vision may still be present in some other cases. Macular detachment, however, can cause substantial vision loss in the afflicted eye in certain people.

The likelihood of developing RD in the other eye is increased if you've had it in one eye. The first eye may also have recurrences on occasion. You should thus continue to attend routine eye exams and be aware of any new symptoms.

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