Vitreous & Retinal Detachment

Click for larger image (© SFG)
Click for larger image (© SFG)

Overview

A healthy eye is filled with a gel-like material called vitreous humor. On the back, inner wall of the eye is the Retina, where light is absorbed from the outside world.

Over time, the gel-like vitreous can undergo change, forming small collagen condensations called floaters. Most likely you have one. It is a small, sometimes clear dot which moves across your field of vision, casting shadows onto the retina. If these small moving dots begin to appear as flashes of light, however, a more serious problem - in which the vitreous can be pulling on the retina - may be arising.

Left: A healthy eye. Right: An eye with retinal detachment. Click for larger image. (©SFG)
Left: A healthy eye. Right: An eye with retinal detachment. Click for larger image. (©SFG)

With older age, the vitreous gel can liquify, causing vitreous traction - the pulling and subsequent tearing of the retina. Fluid can then pass through this tear or hole, and go behind the retina, putting outward pressure on the retina, causing it to detach from the back wall of the eye. When this occurs, vision will be lost in the area affected, and surgery may be required to repair the retinal detachment.

How Retinal Detachment Forms

1. Liquified vitreous pulls down on the retina. 2. The retina tears from the back wall of the eye. 3. Fluid enters this cavity between the retina and the back wall of the eye. 4. The pressure created by this fluid pulls on the retina, detaching it.
1. Liquified vitreous pulls down on the retina. 2. The retina tears from the back wall of the eye. 3. Fluid enters this cavity between the retina and the back wall of the eye. 4. The pressure created by this fluid pulls on the retina, detaching it.

Surgery

First, the fluid behind the retina is drained. Then, small silicone exoplants are placed external to any retinal tears or holes.

Next, and encircling scleral band is placed on the outside of the eye. This repositions the retina against the back wall of the eye.

Laser treatment then seals the holes or tears in the retina.

A special gas bubble may be used to hold the retina during healing (many times, patients who require this procedure must lay face down following surgery for this bubble to adequately do its job). The gas bubble reabsorbs, and the surgery is complete

Conclusion

Retinal detachment is a very serious eye problem. It can occur without warning at nearly any age, and can also occur as a result of eye trauma. People who are nearsighted are at greater risk for retinal detachment.

Some signs of a potential retinal detachment are detectable by your eye doctor. Regular eye check-ups are very important in detecting these early symptoms.

Any noticeable changes in your vision, especially flashes, or sudden changes in your floaters, should be examined by your doctor immediately.

Although complex, modern microsurgery affords repair of retinal detachment, and may restore vision, depending on specific circumstances of each case.


Matthew Gordon is the author of The Thin Blue Line: An In-Depth Look at the Policing Practices of the Los Angeles Police Department & To Live, To Think, To Hope - Inspirational Quotes by Helen Keller.

© Matthew Gordon, 2011

*This article is a simple explanation article, and should not be taken as medical fact. A doctor should be consulted for all medical related actions.

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