28 Jul How to Spot Common Retinal Detachment Symptoms and Prevent It
Myopia or nearsightedness is the most common refractive error in the world. Symptoms can manifest as early as during the pre-teen years, and blurred distance vision can certainly take the fun out of childhood and lead to more serious vision problems like retinal detachment. Orthokeratology can help you win the battle against these vision problems.
If you and your child have myopia, a.k.a. nearsightedness, and had it checked by an eye specialist, you may have heard your doctor talk about retinal detachment.
You are probably wondering: What is retinal detachment and why should I be concerned about it?
As the name implies, retinal detachment is when the retina—the light-sensitive layer of tissue lining the eye, responsible for sending visual messages to the brain via the optic nerves—is lifted or pulled from its normal position.
This can happen when the gel-like vitreous leaks through a retinal hole or tear and gathers underneath the retina. This causes the retina to peel away from the tissues underneath it. These tissues house a layer of blood vessels called the choroid. When the retina is detached, the areas lose blood supply and stop working, causing permanent vision loss.
Retinal detachment causes also include aging, which can cause the retina to thin and create a tear when the vitreous collapses.
Retinal detachment is considered a medical emergency and, if not treated promptly and properly, can cause permanent blindness.
According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), there are three types of retinal detachment:
- Rhegmatogenous: When the tear or break in the retina allows fluid to get under it and separate it from the pigmented cell layer which ‘nourishes’ the retina. This is the most common type of retinal detachment.
- Tractional: When the scar tissue on the retina’s surface contracts and the retina separates from the pigmented cell layer.
- Exudative: When the detachment is caused by retinal diseases such as inflammatory disorders and eye injuries or trauma.
Are you and your child at risk of retinal detachment?
Technically, it can occur at any age, but people aged 40 and above are more prone to it. Studies on retinal detachment causes also found that more men and Caucasians were affected by it.
If you and your child are extremely myopic, your chances of retinal detachment also drastically increase, especially if you have a family history of it. Same goes for people who have had cataract surgery or eye injury, and those with eye diseases such as uveitis or lattice degeneration. People suffering from advanced diabetes are also more prone to this condition.
What are the symptoms of detached retina?
Despite its painful-sounding description, retinal detachment is surprisingly painless, which makes it more dangerous because there is no obvious pain to immediately warn you that something is wrong.
Mayo Clinic lists the following retinal detachment symptoms to watch out for:
- Sudden appearance of floaters—tiny specks that drift through the field of vision
- Flashes of light in or both eyes
- Vision is blurred.
- Peripheral vision is gradually reduced.
- A shadow hangs over the visual field.
What are your options for retinal detachment treatment?
Good news! UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) assures that retinal detachment can be treated. However, the retinal detachment treatment process is surgical and can be quite complex in nature, and can vary depending on each individual case.
As with any medical procedure, your doctor will begin with an assessment of your or your child’s unique eye situation. The eye surgeon will decide when detached retina surgery needs to be carried out—usually ASAP since retinal detachment is a medical emergency. Your doctor will also discuss with you whether you or your child will need a local (you/your child will be awake but feel nothing in your eye) or general (you/your child will be unconscious) anesthetic during the surgery.
Before the detached retina surgery, you/your child may be asked to lie down or sit with the head in a particular position for 10 days prior to surgery day. This is called posturing. This is done pre-surgery to prevent the spread of retinal detachment. In some cases, this is done post-surgery to keep a gas bubble in place and to help it put pressure on the part of the retina that is being reattached.
There are different types of detached retina surgery:
- Vitrectomy: This procedure involves the removal of the vitreous gel and its replacement with a gas bubble or clear silicone oil. The purpose of this is to keep the retina in place since the vitreous already leaked through the retinal tears.
- Scleral buckle: During a scleral buckle procedure, a small piece of silicone sponge or harder plastic is attached to the outside of the eye. The pressure from the outside is meant to cause the inside to buckle inwards, against the detached retina, so the latter will eventually reattach. Laser treatment will then be used to seal the area around the hole. The buckle usually remains and is not visible even after surgery is completed.
- Pneumatic retinopexy or gas bubble surgery: This procedure is for small and uncomplicated cases of retinal detachment. Here, a gas bubble is injected into the vitreous which will press the retina back in place. Laser treatment is also applied to seal up the hole or tear. The gas bubble is reabsorbed in the next couple of weeks, and as a result, the retina will remain in place. This can cause the vision to be blurred in the first few weeks post-surgery, which is why it is not as often done as the previous two.
Since the treatment procedures are surgical, expect the eyes to feel uncomfortable (think bruising and sticky eyelids) and that eye drops will be required to prevent infection and control any swelling. Normal vision will not be restored until after a few weeks. The eye surgeon will also advise you of activities that you/your child temporarily have to avoid, like traveling by air or sporting activities. In the long run, you/your child may also need to reconsider contact sports such as martial arts or boxing because these may affect the results of retinal detachment surgery.
Now, the really crucial question: How much will it cost?
According to the Health Cost Helper site, the national average cost of a comprehensive eye exam, which is the first step to addressing retinal detachment, is $114 without insurance coverage. Generally speaking, the cost of retinal detachment treatment can range from $5,000 to $10,000 per eye, which includes estimates for doctors’ and hospital fees. Other costs to consider include medication and other pre- and post-surgery tests.
Needless to say, retinal detachment treatment can be quite costly—in terms of time, effort, and money. If you are nearsighted, consider this a warning.
All About Vision cited a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology where researchers found that “myopia was a clear risk factor for retinal detachment.” People with mild myopia had a “four-fold increased risk” of having their retinas detached, while those with moderate and high myopia had the “risk increased 10-fold.” The same study also found that 55 percent of retinal detachment cases that were not caused by eye trauma can be attributed to myopia.
While mild myopia does not increase a person’s risk for eye health problems, those with moderate to high myopia are more prone to “serious, vision-threatening side effects” that may have irreversible consequences. Those who are highly nearsighted are often those who had myopia as young children—it progressed year after year because it remained unchecked and unmanaged.
What can you do then?
Simple, really. Stop myopia before it gets worse.
Unlike retinal detachment, there is a treatment option for myopia that is non-invasive, reversible, safe, and of course, effective. It’s called Orthokeratology or VIT for short.
Also called Vision Improvement Therapy (VIT). , VIT is a non-surgical procedure wherein a myopic person wears custom-designed gas permeable overnight corrective lens. These lenses gently shape the cornea as the person sleeps so that vision is improved upon waking. (Remember that myopia happens when the cornea is too curved or too elongated, which then prevents light entering the eye from focusing properly and causing blurred distance vision.) Vision Improvement Therapy (VIT). is FDA approved and is safe even for nearsighted children. And compared to retinal detachment treatment options, it is relatively pain-free.
If you want to know more about Vision Improvement Therapy (VIT). , check out Invisalens, developed by Arizona’s Vision chief eye care specialist and one of the state’s most trusted eye professionals Dr. Mark Page. It is a known and trusted brand of custom-designed eye retainers that are proven effective for managing myopia in the long-term, thus preventing further eye complications such as retinal detachment.
Vision Improvement Therapy (VIT). is just one example of how modern medical technology has empowered us to take control of medical situations that could potentially have long-term ill effects on our health and lifestyle. If you are myopic, take advantage of this technology to improve your vision, and perhaps even triumph over myopia completely.
Of course, it also helps to take extra care of your eyes so it will love you back.
Do you have any experience with myopia or retinal detachment? We want to know what you think!
Dr. Page’s own vision struggles helped propel him into the optometry field. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of South Dakota and a Doctor of Optometry from the New England College of Optometry in Boston, he launched his career in Phoenix.