A retinal tear often occurs in the presence of posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) and can eventuate when the vitreous separates from the retina.
Although PVD in itself does not impact vision, there are instances where the vitreous gel-like fibres pull hard enough on the retina whilst detaching, resulting in a painless retinal tear. With early diagnosis and prompt treatment, a torn retina can be repaired before the more serious condition of retinal detachment occurs.
What are the symptoms of a retinal tear?
The most commonly noted symptoms of a retinal tear include the presence of flashes and floaters. As with PVD, these can occur suddenly and can present together or separately.
Flashes or flashing lights typically are noticed in our peripheral (side) vision and occur as a result of the vitreous pulling on the retina as it detaches. The flashing lights are in response to a signal sent from the retina to our brain and are often more noticeable at night.
Floaters are spots, ‘cob-webs’ or dots that seemingly float around in our field of vision, often darting from one side to another. Due to the similarities in symptoms between a retinal tear and PVD, it is important that the sudden onset of any new, or the increase in the frequency of symptoms prompt a visit to an ophthalmologist (an eye doctor) for a professional eye examination. Early diagnosis of a retinal tear is essential to avoiding vision loss.
Who is at risk of retinal tears?
Those who are short sighted, also known as a myope, and people who have suffered from eye trauma or undergone previous eye surgery are at greater risk of experiencing a retinal tear. In addition, the presence of posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), a pain-free commonly occurring eye condition, can result in a tear. It is important to note however that only 10% of those with PVD may experience a retinal tear.
How are retinal tears treated?
Retinal tears, unlike PVD, can impact vision long term and must be treated immediately once diagnosed.
If left unattended, a tear can result in a detached retina that requires surgery. Those who experience a sudden increase in floaters or flashes should have a professional eye examination as soon as possible.
A torn retina (retinal tear) is repaired with laser treatment, also known as retinopexy, to surround the tear, forming a scar to effectively block the liquified vitreous (jelly water) from passing through beneath the retina. There are few instances where treatment is not deemed necessary however regular check-ups are recommended to ensure the retina remains stable.
Laser treatment of a retinal tear is highly successful working to preserve vision and prevent further damage. It is important to note that this treatment does not aim to eradicate the presence of flashes or floaters as these are harmless in their own right and will gradually disappear or improve over time.
About Westside Eye Clinic
Westside Eye Clinic is a specialist Ophthalmology practice located in Jamboree Heights near the Mt Ommaney Shopping Centre, in the Western Suburbs of Brisbane.
Dr Joseph Park is a Specialist Ophthalmologist (an Eye Doctor) who trained in Brisbane and undertook further studies at Moorfields Eye Hospital and Western Eye Hospital in London, United Kingdom.