Retinal tears and detachments are conditions where the inner lining of the eye called the retina is damaged. The retina is a layer of tissue that’s light-sensitive and sends visual information through the optic nerve to the brain. If damaged, this layer of tissue can eventually detach from the inside of the eye, causing permanent vision loss.
A retinal tear describes a small break in this lining. Retinal tears can have many causes and can happen at any age. Retinal tears can be treated with laser surgery or an advanced “freezing” process. Both of these treatment options attempt to keep the retina in place and keep it from fully detaching.
Retinal detachment describes a much larger separation of the retina tissues and although it is not exclusive to older people, it’s more common in those over age 40. If detected with an eye exam early enough, retinal detachment can be treated with the procedures used for some tears, or with a more intricate surgery that uses gas to push the retina together with the wall of the eye to allow for reattachment.
Aging, eye trauma, eye surgery, or being drastically nearsighted may cause retinal tears or detachments. Symptoms of these retinal conditions may include seeing flashes or floaters, sudden blurry vision, and seeing an area of dark vision.
An eye exam is very important when these symptoms occur as permanent eyesight loss may occur if the retina problem is not treated in a timely manner.