Retinal Tear

The eye is filled with a gel called vitreous that supports its shape. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. It records visual images and sends them to your brain so you can see. Behind the retina is a thin layer of blood vessels that bring oxygen to the retina.

With age, the vitreous contracts, separating from the retina. When the vitreous separates it causes floaters to appear. Floaters are small dots or strings that seem to be moving across your field of vision. They are harmless.

Sometimes, when the vitreous pulls away from the retina, it can cause a tear in the retina. If this happens, you will suddenly see many floaters. They may occur with flashes of light. A retinal tear is painless but it's a serious condition. If not treated, most retinal tears will progress to retinal detachment within days or weeks. Retinal detachment is also painless. But it causes vision loss that can be permanent. This condition needs emergency treatment.

Eye surgery is needed to treat a retinal tear and prevent it from becoming a retinal detachment. The methods commonly used are laser surgery or freezing (cryotherapy). They may be done as outpatient procedures. Healing takes about 2 weeks.

Home care 

  • Don't play contact sports or do any strenuous activity before you are treated.

If you have had a detached retina and your vision is reduced, your lifestyle will be affected. Depending on how much vision you have lost you may no longer be able to do some things. If this happens, making some of the following changes may help:

  • Increase the amount of light in your home. This will make it easier for you to see.

  • Make your home safer by noting hazards that could make you trip and fall.

  • Ask your family and friends for help. 

  • Talk with other people who have reduced vision. Members of support groups and online forums may have advice that’s helpful to you.

  • Use eye protection when doing activities that may injure your eye (such as using power tools).

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider or get medical help right away if you have any of these symptoms of a retinal tear:

  • Sudden onset of new floaters

  • Flashing lights, usually in the peripheral vision

Call your healthcare provider or get medical help right away if you have any of these symptoms of a retinal detachment:

  • Sudden blurriness or waviness in your vision

  • A sudden shadow or curtain effect moving across part of your visual field

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