The retina is a thin layer of nerve tissue at the back of your eye, responsible for forming an optical image which results in sight. It is loosely attached to underlying tissue and can separate from this blood filled layer resulting in Retinal detachment.

It occurs in approximately 1 in 10,000 people, where trauma to the head, short-sightedness and age are the biggest contributory factors.

People generally report a definite ‘Dark Curtain’ coming over one side of their peripheral vision which is quite obvious. This is often associated with photopsia (flashing lights) and excessive floaters (black spots) in their vision and is pain free. Similar symptoms can occur in migraine but generally fade after 1-2 hours. We as opticians also search for bronze ‘tobacco dust’ (schaffers sign) in the anterior vitreous.

Should you experience these symptoms, report to your local Optician or GP immediately to get clarification or report directly to Eye Casualty if out of hours. The degree of retinal damage (from nutrient starvation) is greatly minimised with prompt action, even although there will be false alarms.

Treating quickly with Cryotherapy (freezing treatment) and laser creates scar tissue which seals the hole (retinal tear) that causes detachment. For full blown detachment, surgery is the only option. The final vision result is determined by how much of the retina was detached and for how long, with ensuing settle down taking approximately 3-4 weeks.

Noel McCrystal
BSc.(Hons.)MCOptom.Dip.Sc.V MASv.P

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