Watch Dr. Mark R. Barakat on Arizona AZTV to discuss retinal detachments and what treatment options are available today.
A retinal detachment occurs when the retina separates from the wall of the eye. As we age, the vitreous gel that fills the eye begins to liquefy and pulls away from the back of the eye. When the vitreous separates, it often tugs on the retina which can cause floaters (small opacities in the vitreous) and flashing lights. Persistent traction or tugging on the retina can lead to a retinal tear. If the fluid in the eye goes through the tear and under the retina, it lifts part or all of the retina away from the back of the eye causing a retinal detachment.
- Nearsightedness (myopia)
- Recent posterior vitreous separation
- Trauma (injury to the eye)
- Family history
- Eye surgery
There are several different methods to treat retinal detachment. Surgical repair of a retinal detachment is generally performed as an outpatient procedure, and patients may go home the same day. The Anatomical success rate can be as high as 85-90%. However, some eyes may develop a recurrent retinal detachment and may need additional surgery, regardless of the initial method of treatment. Gas or silicone oil are often injected into the eye to keep the retina attached and hold it in place while the retina re-attaches to the wall of the eye. A gas bubble is gradually absorbed over a period of several days to several weeks, depending on the type of gas used. The gas is replaced by the eye’s own fluid, similar to salted water. A patient cannot travel by airplane or travel to higher elevations with a gas bubble inside the eye. Silicone oil may be necessary if longer retina support is required, allowing the eye more time to heal. Once the retina is stable, silicone oil is often removed from the eye by an additional surgical procedure. Patients with silicone oil in their eyes can safely travel to higher altitudes and fly in an airplane.