Retinal diseases can take many forms. They include Retinal detachment, Macular Degeneration, Macular Hole, Retinal Tear, etc. Here we shall discuss in-depth about one of the retinal diseases: Retinal tear.

Retinal Tear

The retina is a thin, inner layer of the eye consisting of nerve fibers and cells that generate vision. Tears or breaks can form in this light-sensitive layer which can lead to the disastrous complication of retinal detachment.

Retinal Tear Symptoms

Patients with retinal tear may have:

  • Sudden onset of floaters or black spots
  • Photopsia or flashes of light
  • Blurred vision
  • A curtain-like shadow in the peripheral vision
  • In some cases, a retinal tear may not show any noticeable symptoms

Retinal Tear Causes

Our eyes are filled with a jelly-like substance called the vitreous gel which provides support to the retina and the eye. As we age, this gel converts into a fluid. This conversion is a normal physiological change and during this period the vitreous separates from the retina in a process called posterior vitreous detachment. In the majority of the people, this happens without any issue but in a few cases wherein the retina is thin or the vitreous inherently ‘sticky’, it may lead to retinal tears. Other risk factors include:

  • An eye injury
  • Lattice degeneration
  • Short-sightedness/myopias
  • A family history of retinal detachment
  • Previous eye surgery

Retinal Tear Diagnosis

A retinal tear cannot be observed from the outside of the eye. Through thorough and comprehensive eye examination, your ophthalmologist can diagnose retinal tear. For the eye exam, your eye doctor will put eye drops to dilate your pupil following which a lighted magnification instrument is used to look into the inside of the eye. In cases with a limited view of the retina, ophthalmic ultrasound may be used to help in the diagnosis of a retinal tear.

Retinal Tear Treatment

A tear in the retina is of great concern because it can extend and allow fluid to enter through the tear and separate the retina from the underlying tissue causing a retinal detachment.

While retinal tears usually do not cause vision loss and can be repaired effectively through a non-incisional (i.e., no surgical cuts involved) laser or cold therapy (cryotherapy) procedure in the office without anesthesia, retinal detachments almost always cause vision loss (sometimes, severe vision loss or blindness) and usually involve incisional surgical repairs in an operating room. Therefore, it is critical to be evaluated promptly, because diagnosis and treatment of a retinal tear before it results in a retinal detachment can save one’s vision.

Retinal Tear Surgery

Eye surgery is an option if a retinal tear is big in scale or cannot be treated with laser photocoagulation and cryotherapy alone. As a part of complete treatment, laser photocoagulation and cryotherapy are used in conjunction with retinal tear surgery.

Retinal Tear Precautions

Be it for a retinal tear or any other retinal diseases, one should not miss his or her regular eye examinations. If you or your loved ones suffer any of the aforementioned signs and symptoms, book an appointment with your eye care hospital immediately. In case of a family history of retinal problems, have regular eye exams. Seek eye care after any severe eye injury. Do not forget to wear safety eyewear during hazardous activities or playing sports.

Retinal Tear Recovery

For small breaks or tears in the retina, minimal laser photocoagulation is helpful in preventing further complications. As such following the procedure, no period of rest is required and the individual can pursue his daily activities from the next day onwards. Eye drops are usually prescribed for a period of 1-2 weeks following the procedure. It is also advisable to avoid lifting heavyweight and contact sports (boxing or fencing) for a period of one month following the laser treatment. A repeat review is usually scheduled within 1 month for smaller lesions while extra care and repeat reviews may be required for larger tears.

Dr. Anuj Sharma