What is the Retina?

The retina is a thin layer of cells positioned at the back of the eye that houses millions of light-sensitive nerve cells called ganglion, which absorb light focused on them by the cornea and the inner lens of the eye. This captured light is then transmitted through the optic nerve to the brain, where it is translated into the images we see. Retinal detachment is a very serious medical condition that occurs when the retina is physically damaged to the point that it stops receiving the oxygen it needs to stay functional. As the retina loses oxygen, it becomes difficult for it to process light impulses into visual images, ultimately blurring or blocking vision.

Generally, the retina loses its oxygen supply because of a tear or total detachment from the back of the eye. If left untreated, a retinal detachment can lead to permanent vision loss, so it requires immediate medical treatment. There are many risk factors that make it significantly more likely that you will suffer a retinal detachment at some point in your life. These include pre-existing eye conditions like nearsightedness or uveitis, or having undergone eye surgery previously.

While some cases can be treated non-surgically, the most common treatment for a detached retina is surgery. Retinal detachment surgery is considered safe and has positive long-term outcomes. Most detachments can be repaired via a single surgery, but in some cases, more than one procedure may be necessary to fully repair the damage.

Retinal Detachment Surgery

During retinal detachment surgery, your physician will inject an expanding bubble of gas into your eye. Your physician will position this expanding bubble in such a way as to make it “float” on top of the detached retina, pushing it back into place. Once the detached portion of your retina is properly positioned, a cryogenic device will be used to seal the retina in place at the back of your eye. In very severe cases of retinal detachment, a procedure called a vitrectomy may need to be performed. This procedure requires your doctor to remove some of the vitreous humor from inside of your eye. Reattachment procedures are done on an outpatient basis and take between one to two hours, depending on the technique being used.

Retinal Detachment Recovery

Following your procedure, you will be asked to wear an eye patch and your physician will prescribe medication to minimize pain. The most important thing to remember following a retinal detachment surgery is to listen to your doctor’s instructions about positioning.

Many people experience results immediately following their procedure, but it could take a few days for your vision to return to normal. You will need to keep follow-up appointments to monitor the eye for proper healing.

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