The retina is a thin layer of cells positioned at the back of the eyeball 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 very difficult, if not impossible, for the retina 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 eyeball. If left untreated, a retinal detachment can lead to permanent vision loss, so it requires immediate medical treatment. There are a host of risk factors that make it significantly more likely that you will suffer a retinal detachment at some point in your life. These include among other things, having 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. The good news is that retinal detachment surgery is considered safe and has very positive long-term outcomes. Most detachments can be repaired via a single surgery, but in some cases, people may require more than one procedure to fully repair the damage.
Center for Sight’s retina specialist will discuss the complications and risks with your prior to any procedures.
What to Expect
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.
During the procedure, local anesthesia will be used to ensure you feel minimal pain during the surgery. Reattachment procedures generally take between one to two hours, depending on the technique being used, so you can expect to be out and home on the same day as your surgery.
Following your procedure, you will be asked to wear an eye patch and your physician will prescribe medication to ensure you do not experience too much pain. The most important thing to remember following a retinal detachment surgery is to listen to your doctor’s instructions about positioning. They will provide very specific instructions about how to position your head after the procedure for up to eight hours following the procedure; this allows the gas bubble they injected to stay in the right place until the retina has healed enough to hold itself in the proper position.
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 schedule and keep follow-up appointments to ensure the procedure was successful and you are not experiencing any side effects. If you are experiencing pain and swelling in your eye, call Center for Sight immediately as these could be a sign that another surgery may be warranted.