Retinal detachment: what you need to know to avert sight loss
Retinal detachment is a common, sight-threatening disease for which delaying diagnosis and treatment has a huge negative bearing on the outcome. Here is some info that may assist to take action, based on questions that frequently arise in the office:
The symptoms are impaired sight, which may manifest as a black curtain creeping on the visual field or blurred vision, and persistent flashes in one eye.
It is almost always preceded by seeing a sudden shower of many black spots or specks (floaters) and/or flashes, which are symptoms of posterior vitreous detachment. If this happens, it does not mean that the retina has detached, but it does call for the need of getting a full eye exam with pupil dilation.
Retinal detachment is completely painless, and the fact that there is no associated pain with the visual impairment does not mean that it is not a serious condition and that there is no need for getting an eye exam. In fact, every situation in which there is a decrease in your sight is a good reason for seeking medical attention from an eye doctor. This is all the more true during the COVID19 pandemic because we naturally tend to put aside everything that does not seem urgent.
Most cases (90%) are not related to previous eye trauma. It is mostly due to age-related changes in the eyes (posterior vitreous detachment).
But if a person receives a significant blow to the eye or head, it is appropriate to seek an eye doctor because trauma can lead to retinal detachment (about 10% of cases, mostly in the young).
It can happen at any age, but it is most frequent in 50 to 70-years-olds.
If someone experiences the symptoms described above, he/she should urgently seek medical attention from an ophthalmologist because an early diagnosis and prompt surgical treatment can lead to good results. Delaying treatment by just a few days may drastically change the outcome.