A retinal tear can lead to a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment is potentially blinding and can require surgery to repair.
Retinal tears occur when the vitreous pulls on the retina with enough force to cause a tear. This most often occurs after a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) or with severe trauma. Complications from eye surgery can cause retinal tears.
The vitreous is the watery gel which fills most of the eye. The retina and vitreous are firmly adherent in the anterior portion of the retina. This is where most retinal tears occur, in the are area where the retina and vitreous never separate – even after a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).
The most common symptoms of a retinal tear are flashing lights and/or floaters. Both can occur suddenly, together or singly. The flashing lights are located off to the side of vision and are result of the vitreous “tugging” on the peripheral retina (Note: This is the same area where the tears may occur.) Flashing lights can be triggered by head or eye movement.
Floaters can also be a sign of a retinal tear. The floaters can be caused by bleeding, a PVD or cellular debris caused by the retinal tear itself.
Those who are nearsighted are most susceptible to retinal tears. Tears can also occur right after a posterior vitreous detachment or with severe trauma.
Patients who have had previous intraocular surgery may also be at higher risk for developing retinal tears.
We treat retinal tears by freezing (cryotherapy) or using a laser to surround the retinal tear (hole or break). In either case, the laser or “cryotherapy” will scar the torn retina to the underlying tissue thereby preventing fluid to migrate through that tear to underneath the retina; the cause of a retinal detachment.
Successful diagnosis and treatment of a retinal tear can prevent a retinal detachment and avoid the possibility of surgery and ensuing complications from a retinal detachment.