Floaters and curtains are symptoms of retinal detachment; the result can be eye surgery. Here’s how to recognize the signs of a detached retina before it’s too late.
The quicker you recognize it, the faster you’ll be able to treat it — and it’s critical to get medical attention from a specialist at the earliest sign of a possible retinal detachment.
If you’re searching for information about dogs and eyes, read How to Treat a Dog’s Scratched Eye. Below, I also provide links to information about different types of eye surgery.
And, here’s what retinal detachment is all about – this is a guest post from Sydney Tyler Thomas.
What is Retinal Detachment?
Although rare, retinal detachment is a serious eye disorder in which the retina peels away from its support tissue. The retina is a thin layer of light-sensitive tissue located on the back wall of the eye. Light is focused through the retina in much the same way that light is focused on the film in a camera to produce an image. When the retina tears or detaches due to injury or trauma, very serious eye problems, including blindness, can result.
The risk of retinal detachments is greater for adults who are strongly nearsighted (myopic), people who have experienced an eye injury or suffered a hard blow to the head, people who have had cataract surgery, and those with a family history of retinal detachment.
The risk of retinal detachment increases with age. Sadly, the incidence of retinal detachments is also increasing among teenagers and young adults as a result of paintball injuries.
Retinal Detachment Symptoms – From Floaters to Eye Surgery
The symptoms of a retinal tear or detachment can occur suddenly, or they can develop gradually over time. They are often subtle and are rarely painful, which is why it’s so important to know the symptoms of a detached retina so you can recognize it early.
Tiny spots or squiggly lines that drift across your field of vision are sometimes called “floaters.” Imagine making a photocopy of the glass on a copy machine that has visible specks of dust and lint. That’s what it looks like when floaters start developing in your eye. Keep in mind that floaters are often harmless, but if they increase in number and/or become more pronounced, particularly if they begin to develop rapidly, it’s time to contact your eye doctor.
Brief sparks or streaks of light, usually at the edges of your field of vision are called “flashes”. These can indicate a retinal tear or detachment, particularly when they appear in conjunction with new floaters. Be particularly attentive to any flashes that you can see in the dark or with your eyes closed.
Perhaps the most obvious and most frightening symptom of retinal detachment is a curtain. A curtain is actually a dark shadow that covers a portion of your field of vision. It could be an indication that a retinal tear has progressed to a detachment. A curtain in your field of vision is likely to “grow”, getting both darker and larger, effectively reducing your field of vision. This progression can happen quite quickly and signals the need for an immediate visit to an eye doctor who will probably refer you to a retinal specialist, or if you can’t get to an eye doctor right away, go directly to an emergency room.
Proper diagnosis and treatment is critical
It’s impossible to overemphasize the need for immediate medical attention at the first sign of a possible retinal tear or detachment. An ophthalmologist can easily diagnose a retinal detachment by examining the retina. The sooner the detachment is identified and treated, the greater the chances of saving your vision.
Eye surgery is the only effective way to treat a retinal detachment. There are several surgical procedures in use, but each of them are aimed at identifying and sealing all of the tears and holes and relieving any pressure that may cause the retina to detach again after being repaired. It is extremely important to follow all of your surgeon’s instructions concerning post-operative care in order to give the retina the best possible chance to heal and to avoid further eye injury.
How to reduce the risks of retinal detachment
There is no way to prevent retinal detachments, other than to minimize risk of eye injury during sports, crafts, home improvement activities and the like by wearing protective eyewear. However, you can reduce the risk of serious damage by being aware of the early warning signs so you can obtain medical care as soon as possible.
In addition, regular visits to your eye doctor for routine check-ups and to follow-up on any eye issues can help to identify any risk factors early so that pre-emptive measures can be taken.
Are you considering laser eye surgery? Read LASIK Vs PRK Laser Eye Surgery – What’s the Difference?
Written by Sydney Tyler Thomas, a writer and small business owner living in Virginia. She is author of The Joy of Soulful Knitting: Reflections on the Art of the Craft. You can also visit Sydney at her blog, New Calling.