Human eyes are remarkable, highly complex organs.
Most of the time, they’re able to function fairly well, but there’s a lot that can go wrong. The one we want to focus on today is retinal detachment, a condition that will affect 1 in every 300 people sometime during their lives. Retinal detachment is serious and sight-threatening, but it can still be treated with early enough action, and a crucial element of that is patient education.
How a Healthy Retina Functions
The retina is located at the back of the eye. It performs the task of converting light into signals that travel to the brain to create the images we see, and it does this through a network of specialized cells called rods and cones. The retina is made of two layers: an outer layer where all the rods and cones are and an inner layer (the retinal pigment epithelium) that supports and nourishes the rods and cones and holds them in place.
An Overview of Retinal Detachment
You probably already have a pretty good idea what retinal detachment is just from the name. It’s when the two layers of the retina separate, and the most common cause is when a hole forms in the retina and fluid is able to creep in between the layers. It can happen as the result of trauma, infection, or as a complication of eye surgery. Retinal detachment will result in permanent vision loss in the affected eye if it isn’t treated immediately.
Who Is at Risk of Retinal Detachment?
The biggest risk factor for retinal detachment is age. The older we get, the more the fluid in our eyes shrinks, which results in a tear as often as 15% of the time. Some of the other risk factors are extreme near-sigthedness, cataract removal, previous retinal detachment in one eye, Marfan’s syndrome, and injuries in contact sports or activities like paintball.
Recognize the Symptoms of Retinal Detachment
You might expect something like this to be very painful, but pain is actually not a common symptom. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it could mean retinal detachment, and you should get to an eye doctor as quickly as you can, especially if you’re having more than one of them:
- A heavy feeling in one eye
- A sensation like a transparent curtain dropping over the field of vision
- A shadow spreading inward from your peripheral vision
- Straight lines beginning to appear curved
- Suddenly seeing more floaters than you’re used to
- Sudden flashes of light when moving the eye
Regular Eye Exams Make a Difference
Keeping up with regular eye exams is about more than just being able to update your glasses prescription regularly. The eye doctor can also check for the early indicators of retinal detachment and treat it before it can worsen and lead to vision loss. In between eye exams, keep protecting your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses and keep them strong with healthy food and an active lifestyle!