The Retina and Retinal Tears
The human eye is a complex and intricate part of the body made up of many different parts. One part being the retina which is the very inner lining of the eye. The lining is made up of a thin layer of tissue that generates vision. Light enters the eye through the pupil, passes through the lens, then passes through the vitreous gel filling the eye, falling on the retina. A retinal tear can occur when the retina pulls away from the outer layers of the eye.
Although a tear can usually be repaired successfully, it is considered a serious condition. If you suspect that it’s happened to you, you should consult an optician for a comprehensive eye exam as soon as possible. If left untreated, a retinal tear can lead to retinal detachment, which is also a serious condition that may result in partial or complete loss of vision.
Risk Factors That Might Cause a Tear
Unfortunately, there is no way to predict or prevent a retinal tear, but being aware of the risk factors may help you to know whether you are vulnerable. These risk factors include:
- Associated lattice generation (thin patches in the retina)
- Middle and older age: at birth, the vitreous gel is attached to the retina. When we age, the gel separates from the retina, which may cause the retina to tear
- Being extremely nearsighted
- Previous eye surgery
- Trauma, such as a blow to the eye
- Diabetes, especially if it is poorly controlled
- Hereditary risks: If a close relative has a tear, you could be at risk
What Are the Signs of a Retinal Tear?
There’s no pain associated with this condition, but here are the tell-tale symptoms of a tear you should look out for:
- Floaters. Small particles of debris in the vitreous gel that might appear as spots, squiggles, or threads that float about in your vision. It is natural to have them, but a sudden increase in the size and number of floaters in your vision is a cause for concern.
- Sudden flashes. Do you experience brief light flashes in your peripheral vision? These flashes typically occur while the eye is moving.
- A shadow in your peripheral vision.
- A grey curtain that moves across your field of vision, or a sudden decrease in vision.
Treatment for a Tear
If you suspect you have a retinal tear, it’s important to make an appointment with your optician for an eye exam. It is possible that tears that haven’t progressed to retinal detachment may not require treatment: an eye care professional may be able to observe such tears without providing treatment as they heal themselves.
The best way to avoid permanent loss of vision due to a tear is to book regular appointments for eye exams. At Eyelux Optometry, we include digital retinal imaging (DRI) without any additional fee as part of every comprehensive eye exam. DRI allows for analysis over time, ensuring we detect early signs of retinal degeneration or a retinal tear before lasting damage occurs.