Detached Retina Information

My name is Alan and I had a retinal detachment in mid 2001. It came as a complete shock to me because even though I was in a high risk group for detached retina -- no-one ever told me! I have created this webpage in order to spread awareness about retinal detachment.

I hope that by creating this webpage, I will help inform others of the dangers of retinal detachment - and by knowledge of the symptoms, may even prevent the loss of someones vision. Please remember that I am not a doctor and this website has been provided for information only, to the best of my knowledge from my personal experience with retinal detachment.

You are encouraged to seek immediate medical advice if you have any reason to suspect a problem with your vision.

What is a detached retina?

Very simple: the retina in one eye detaches from the back of the eyeball. It is completely painless and the only way you will know it has happened is by looking for symptoms. Depending on how severe the detachment, these may be completely obvious or subtley progress over time.

What are the symptoms? How do I know I have a detached retina?

Some of the symptoms include: a blind spot, loss of peripheral vision, flashes of light, blurred or wavy vision, or floaters. It should be noted that floaters in the eye are a normal part of the aging process and so are not a clear indication of a detached retina. However if you notice a sudden increase in floaters then you should contact an eye surgeon immediately.

If your symptoms are obvious, you may notice a 'black curtain' across one part of the eye. Your retina will almost definitely have detached in this case.

In more subtle cases, you may have a blind spot in your peripheral vision. This can actually go unnoticed for a long time but if you do notice symptoms at this stage then you may be able to have treatment before the retina completely detaches.

If you suspect a problem, it is very important to see an eye surgeon immediately. Do not delay - in some cases the time from a retina detaching to complete loss of vision in the eye can be just a few hours.

How do I test for a detached retina? Can a detached retina be seen?

A detached retina is not seen by most opticians or doctors under normal examination. The pupil must be dialated first with an eye drop and then examined by a magnification instrument.

The easiest way to test for a detached retina yourself is to test your peripheral vision.

Take the index finder of your left hand and place it approx 15 cm (6 inches) in front of your left eye. Do the same with your right index finger for your right eye.

Keep looking straight ahead and move the left finger to the left and the right finger to the right. If all is OK, the left finger should disappear from view of the left eye at the same time as the right finger disappears from the right eye.

Repeat this test moving your fingers in all directions, checking they disappear from sight at the same time on each eye.

If you notice one finger disappearing early in any particular situation, that could indicate a problem and you should check more thoroughly.

A caveat here: This test assumes you will not get a retinal detachment in both eyes at the same time!

What should I do if I think I have symptoms?

Do not delay. Seek help immediately. If there is no eye hospital nearby, go to the nearest Accident and Emergency department of your local hospital.

This is so important, I am going to repeat it again: Do not delay. Even if you notice at 2am in the morning, do not leave the problem until the morning. Seek help immediately.

Who is at risk?

If you are very nearsighted (-6 or greater) then you have a 1 in 20 chance of a retinal detachment.

If you have a sudden knock to the head then it could cause a retinal detachment.

People with diabetes may also be at greater risk than normal.

How is detached retina treated? What are the chances of success?

If the symptoms are caught early enough, simple laser surgery may be all that is required. This creates scar tissue on the retina to keep it attached to the back of the eye. It takes only a few minutes to perform and recovery just takes a day or so.

More serious detachments will require surgery - anything from buckle implant to a gas or oil bubble. It is best to ask your doctor about this because your treatment and expected recovery time will be determined by how far your retinal detachment has advanced. You can seek the opinions of other with retinal detachments at the Detached Retina User Group - see below.

If you do require surgery which is more than laser, you should allow several weeks for recovery. At least two weeks minimum - and probably two months or more before your vision gets close to normal.

Where can I ask questions? Where can I get more help?

If you think you have the symptoms of a retinal detachment -- get help now from a doctor! Do not delay.

Otherwise, the following links may be useful:

Sightwise - Information and links to other resources

Detached Retina User Group - Yahoo discussion group for those who have had or want to prevent a detached retina.

(October 2001)

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