Retinal Detachment, Retinal Tears, Retinal Holes

ret-tear-smlThe eye is a hollow organ.The sclera is the outer layer and is very strong, and the retina lines the inside of the eye. The remainder of the eye is filled with a gel-like structure called the vitreous. The vitreous has a thin but tough outer layer, and is attached to the retina in several areas. As one ages, the gel becomes more liquid and retracts from the retina. This is called a vitreous detachment. It usually is harmless and results in floaters. In some instances the gel will not release completely and cause a tear in the retina. Once the retina is torn, it can detach and cause progressive loss of vision.

Signs and Symptoms

  • floaters
  • light flashes
  • partial or complete loss of vision

Treatment consists of applying laser burns to the retinal tear before the detachment occurs. This is a small procedure that can be done in the office. Even small detachments of the retina can sometimes be fixed as an in-office procedure, but most cases of retinal detachment need a trip to the operating room. Surgery involves removing the vitreous and replacing it with fluid, gas or oil; and sometimes a silicone rubber strip is positioned around the eye. Some cases require a combination of the two techniques. All surgery is done at New Hanover Regional Medical Center which has a dedicated operating room and staff just for retinal cases. After the surgery the patient returns to home, no need for admissions.