What is a Retinal Tear and How can an Eye Surgeon Help?

Submitted by Elman Retina Group on June 22, 2016

Retinal tears occur when the clear jelly filling the middle of your eye called the vitreous humor shifts and pulls on your retina. Sometimes, simple aging causes retinal tears while advanced diabetes or trauma to the eye may force the retina to slide, pull on and damage the retina. Retinal tears occurring beside a blood vessel may also cause vitreous hemorrhage, a condition accompanied by the sudden appearance of flashers, floaters and cloudy vision.

Potential Consequences of a Retinal Tear

The most common risk of leaving a retinal tear untreated is retinal detachment. This happens when fluid seeps under your retina and causes increasing pressure that culminates in the “lifting off” of the retina. Retinal tears and ensuing retinal detachments also prevent nutrients from reaching the retina, leading to possible permanent loss of retina function.

Signs of a Possible Retinal Tear

In addition to blurry vision, retinal tear symptoms include:

  • Problems with peripheral vision (shadows or dark spots)
  • Increase in flashers and floaters
  • Swelling of the affected eye
  • Eye pain
  • Headache
  • Difficulty moving the eyeball

Retinal detachments due to retinal tears can happen without warning, producing abrupt vision impairment. Unlike retinal tears requiring uncomplicated outpatient laser surgery, retinal detachments need more invasive surgery that may or may not completely restore vision.

What is the Procedure for Repairing a Retinal Tear?

Opthalmologists specializing in retinal surgery apply cryotherapy or noninvasive laser surgery to seal a damaged retina to the eye’s back wall. Both treatments are performed in-office, cause little discomfort to patients and need minimal recovery time. In addition, laser surgery or cryotherapy works as preventive measures against the possibility of a future retinal detachment.

Since lasers cannot be used on the front part of your retina, your Elman Retina opthalmologist may employ cryotherapy to repair a retinal tear. A cryoprobe freezes retinal tears so that they cannot progress any further while laser surgery for retinal tears fuse tears to effect the same result.

If you suffer from retinal tear symptoms and suspect retinal damage, please call Elman Retina today to schedule an appointment: (410) 686-3000.