Is a Retinal Tear an Emergency?

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that sends images to the brain. Normally, the retina lies against the back of the eye where blood vessels supply it with oxygen and nutrients.  Tears in the retina may impair vision and lead to a detached retina. A detached retina occurs when the retina pulls away from the inside back wall of the eye. When this happens, vision becomes blurred, shaded or distorted. Left untreated, retinal detachment almost always causes permanent sight loss in the affected eye.

 

How does a retinal tear occur?

Retinal tears and detachment may be caused by eye injury, the aging process, tumors, cataract surgery, eye disease or extreme nearsightedness. A retinal tear occurs when the vitreous, a clear gel that fills the middle of the eye, pulls away from the retina at the back of the eye. Normally there are no problems when the vitreous separates from the retina. However, sometimes it pulls hard enough that the fluid flows behind these tears and lifts the retina from the back of the eye. This can lead to retinal detachment. When the retina comes loose, it no longer receives oxygen and nutrients from the blood vessels at the back of the eyeball, which results in permanent vision loss.  

What are the symptoms of a retinal tear?

Light flashes and lightning streaks could mean retinal cells are not in their normal position to receive clear, focused visual images. Floaters may mean specks of retinal tissue are floating in the vitreous gel.

Flashing lights, lightning streaks and floaters are all symptoms of a torn retina. However, you may experience these conditions and not have a torn retina. Flashes and streaks may be occurring because the vitreous gel is simply rubbing against the retina and no tearing is present. A floater may be a harmless speck of tissue.

It’s very important to see an experienced ophthalmologist such as our doctors for an evaluation if you see flashing lights, lightning streaks or a floater.

If a retinal tear is present, it must be treated immediately because a torn retina can quickly deteriorate into a detached retina.

How is a retinal tear treated?

A retinal tear is generally treated by sealing the retina to the back of the eye with laser surgery or a freezing process called cryotherapy.  Each treatment seals the retina to the back wall of the eye. Both treatments are painless and may be performed in our doctors office.

A retinal tear is considered an emergency and needs to be treated promptly. An individual experiencing loss or impairment of vision or any of the symptoms associated with a detached or torn retina, should contact Associated Retina Consultants at 602-242-4928 or website as soon as possible