RETINAL DETACHMENT Retinal detachment is the separation of the retina from its attachment to the underlying tissue within the eye. This condition requires immediate surgical intervention to prevent complete loss of eyesight. Damage is greatly reduced by treating the condition in its early stages. The retina is where the light receptor cells are located. Light receptors convert light entering the eye into electric signals which are transmitted via optic nerves to the brain. There, the signals are processed into the images we see. There are two types of light receptors, rods and cones. There are approximately 120 million rods which are situated on the outer edges of the retina. Rods are long and thin, and they work mainly at night. They are incapable of producing very accurate vision or perceiving color. Rods can only perceive black and white, which is why it is hard to see color at night. There are around 6 million cones located at the center of the retina. They are short and fat and work mainly by day. They are capable of perceiving fine detail as well as color. The population at risk of retinal detachment are people with severe myopia (near-sightedness) and diabetics with symptoms of diabetic eye. Retinal detachment is most likely to be caused by a small tear in the retina which becomes increasingly bigger towards the center. If the problem is detected in the early stages of the tear, routine laser therapy can attach the edges of the tear to the
rear of the eye, which will prevent the tear from spreading.
In the event of fluid entering through the tear and resulting in the retina becoming separated along a wider area, it is exceedingly difficult to return the retina to its proper place, and generally vision will not be restored to its previous strength. There are other ways of treating retinal detachment. Scleral buckling is the attachment of a belt to the outer wall of the eye which pins the retina to the rear wall of the eye. It should be noted that generally glasses prescriptions will change as a result of scleral buckling since the procedure causes changes to the structure and length of the eye. Pneumatic retinopexy is when a gas bubble is inserted into the eye. The patient is required to keep his head facing downwards for a number of days to allow the bubble to push the detached retina back into its place. Symptoms of retinal detachment include: irregular and distorted vision, on and off flashes of light, black spots in the line of vision, and in advanced stages, shadows which cover parts of the field of vision. If there is the slightest suspicion of the presence of this condition, make sure to seek immediate medical attention and avoid extraneous movement, which may exacerbate the problem if it does indeed exist. The aforementioned population at risk should have regular checkups at an eye doctor (at least once a year or as otherwise recommended by a doctor).
REMEMBER: EARLY INTERVENTION IS THE CRITICAL FACTOR FOR SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT.