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A torn retina is a severe eye problem that can make your vision blurry. A torn retina will have a tear or hole resembling a rip in cloth. It often leads to a more serious condition called a detached retina.
A detached retina is where the retina is lifted away from the back of the eye. A torn retina requires immediate treatment to prevent further problems (like vision loss).
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As you age, the vitreous in your eyes begin to shrink and become liquefied. Typically, the vitreous moves around without causing issues. The vitreous is attached to the retina in certain areas.
Normally, the vitreous detaches from the retina without issue. But in some cases, the vitreous detachment pulls off a portion of the retina, causing a tear.
When this happens, fluid can pass through the tear and lift or detach the retina. When the retina tears, you may see flashes of light or floaters.
Sometimes blood can leak into the vitreous. This is known as a vitreous hemorrhage. A vitreous hemorrhage can cause a large number of floaters.
There are several risk factors for having a torn retina:
A torn retina must be checked by an ophthalmologist or eye doctor immediately. Otherwise, your retina may detach, resulting in vision loss.
Speak with an ophthalmologist immediately if you notice any of these warning signs:
Retinal tears are small rips in the retinal tissue. The retina has not yet fully detached, but parts of it are no longer attached to the back of the eye. A retinal tear may lead to retinal detachment.
On the other hand, retinal detachment refers to a partial or complete lack of attachment of the retinal tissue along the back of the eye. A retinal detachment is more severe than a retinal tear.
The longer a detached retina remains detached, the bigger the risk of permanent vision loss.
You can lessen your risk of retinal tears and eye health issues by protecting your eyes.
You should always wear protective goggles when playing sports like hockey, baseball, or lacrosse and when doing DIY projects.
It is also essential to take care of your overall health. Make sure that you keep conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes under control. Consuming a healthy diet and doing at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week helps protect your health.
Even if you do not need glasses or contact lenses, having routine eye exams is an essential part of protecting your eye health and vision.
Most eye diseases and issues do not cause symptoms in the early stages. These include retinal weakness and vitreous changes.
It is best to diagnose and treat problems before they put your vision at risk.
Your eye doctor or ophthalmologist will check for retinal tears by placing drops in your eyes to dilate the pupil. They will look through a special lens to assess any changes inside the eye.
This is the most efficient way to see if you have a retinal tear or early retinal detachment.
There are two ways your eye doctor may fix your retinal tear:
During retinal tear surgery, a laser seals the retina to the wall of the eye. The goal is to prevent fluid from entering through the tear and detaching the retina.
Treatment typically takes less than 15 minutes and is performed in your ophthalmologist’s office. The ophthalmologist sets a lens on the front of your eye to focus the laser. They then create tiny burns with the laser to make scars.
The scars seal the retina to the wall of the eye.
During cryopexy, extreme cold is used to seal the retina to the wall of the eye. The aim is to stop the fluid from going through the tear and detaching the retina.
Cryopexy treatment typically takes less than 30 minutes. It is usually performed in your eye doctor or ophthalmologist’s office.
The surgeon or eye doctor uses a special probe that provides intense and cold energy to the eye retina. This freezes the retina around the tear and produces scar tissue. The scars seal the retina to the eyewall.
Laser treatments create a scar within one to two weeks that works to seal the retinal tear. Following treatment, it is essential to monitor the eye to ensure that the tear remains appropriately sealed and that no other tears are developing.
Occasionally, patients require more than one treatment to stabilize the retina.
Retinal laser surgery is a safe treatment with almost no restrictions and minimal risks and side effects.
Some patients may notice blurring or a decrease in peripheral vision and night vision. However, these effects are typically temporary and go away on their own after a few weeks.
Retinal laser treatment has a success rate of around 90 to 95 percent. Most retinal tears are effectively treated and do not need re-retreatment. There are some individuals who experience retinal tear enlargement (despite surgery).
These patients may require further laser or cryopexy treatment. If a retinal detachment occurs, surgery is necessary.
Some retinal tears are considered low risk without much chance of progressing to retinal detachment, depending on their size and location. For these cases, no treatment is required.
Sometimes the eye spontaneously starts to form a stabilizing scar around the tear. Once a tear has been identified, it must be followed by a trained specialist to ensure that it does not worsen. Retinal tears need to be monitored by a specialist who can take action if necessary.
Here are some common questions and answers about retinal tears:
The retina is fragile. A tear in the retina is a very severe and potentially blinding problem. If you have a retinal tear, it can enable fluid to enter beneath the retina and lead to a retinal detachment.
Retinal tear flashes can be described in several ways.
These include seeing:
Some people also compare vision flashes to when you hit the back of your head and view bright lights for a few moments.
Retinal tears and holes are typically common. A healthy, intact retina is vital for clear and healthy vision. When a crack is in this thin tissue, it is known as a tear.
Not all retinal tears need treatment. Low-risk tears may be identified in patients who have no symptoms. These tears may not require treatment.
Some retinal tears heal themselves, meaning they develop adhesion around the tear without treatment.
A retinal tear is an emergency and requires prompt treatment. An individual experiencing loss or impairment of vision or any symptoms linked with a detached or torn retina should seek emergency medical help.
You will require two to four weeks to recover following retinal tear surgery.
Retinal detachment, Mayo Clinic, August 2020
What Is a Torn Retina?, American Academy of Ophthalmology, November 2020
Neumann, E, and S Hyams. “Conservative management of retinal breaks. A follow-up study of subsequent retinal detachment.” The British journal of ophthalmology vol. 56,6 (1972): 482-6
Mastropasqua, L et al. “Treatment of retinal tears and lattice degenerations in fellow eyes in high risk patients suffering retinal detachment: a prospective study.” The British journal of ophthalmology vol. 83,9 (1999): 1046-9. doi:10.1136/bjo.83.9.1046
Crim, Nicolas et al. “Myopia as a risk factor for subsequent retinal tears in the course of a symptomatic posterior vitreous detachment.” BMC ophthalmology vol. 17,1 226. 1 Dec. 2017
Berrocal, Maria H et al. “Management of Giant Retinal Tear Detachments.” Journal of ophthalmic & vision research vol. 12,1 (2017): 93-97. doi:10.4103/2008-322X.200158