Human eyes are incredibly complex, which means there are many ways something can go wrong.
The particular one we want to focus on is retinal detachment: a serious, sight-threatening condition that will affect 1 in every 300 people at some point in their lives. Retinal detachment can be treated with early action, and for that, patients have to be able to recognize the signs if they happen.
A Quick Lesson on the Retina
The retina is the part of the eye that converts light into signals that travel to the brain so that we can perceive visual information. It is made up of ten layers and contains a network of specialized photoreceptors called rods and cones. The retina is attached to the back of the eye by the retinal pigment epithelium, which also functions as a filter that supports and nourishes the rods and cones.
How Retinal Detachment Works
Retinal detachment is just what it sounds like: the retina pulls away from the back of the eye. The most common cause of retinal detachment is when a hole develops in the retina and fluid from the eye creeps in between the layers of the retina. It can also be the result of trauma, infection, or a complication of eye surgery. Retinal detachment should be treated as quickly as possible because it can lead to permanent vision loss if it isn’t repaired.
Rich Factors for Retinal Detachment
Some people are at greater risk of developing retinal detachment than others. The biggest risk factor is age. This is because the fluid in our eyes shrinks as we get older, and this alone can cause a tear in the retina. Other risk factors include:
- Previous retinal detachment in one eye
- Marfan’s syndrome
- Extreme near-sightedness
- Cataract removal (particularly if the lens isn’t replaced)
- An injury from contact sports or an activity like paintball
What Are the Symptoms of Retinal Detachment?
Pain is often a warning sign that something is wrong, but retinal detachment is usually painless. Be on the watch for any of the following symptoms and get to an eye doctor if you experience one (and especially if you experience more than one):
- Sudden light flashes, particularly when moving your eyes
- A sudden increase in the number of floaters you see in one eye
- A heavy feeling in the eye
- A spreading shadow starting in the peripheral vision and moving inward
- The sensation of a transparent curtain falling over the field of vision Straight lines appearing curved
Regular Eye Exams Could Save Your Vision
Going to see the eye doctor regularly isn’t just about getting updated glasses prescriptions. It’s also important for catching eye problems early, including retinal detachment. In the meantime, take care of your eyes by wearing protective eyewear and UV-blocking sunglasses, and keep them strong by eating healthy foods and staying active!