The retina is a thin layer, like wallpaper, lining the back of the eye. Retinal tears can occur when stress is placed on it, such as trauma or when the vitreous, a gel-like substance in the eye, separates from the retina – a normal physiologic change with age. The retina can also have holes. Retinal holes can be related to trauma or lattice degeneration, known as weakening at the edges of the retina, which can be congenital or genetic.
A retinal tear, if left untreated, could result in a retinal detachment. This occurs when watery fluid from the vitreous space passes through the hole or tear and flows between the retina and the back wall of the eye. This separates the retina from the back of the eye, causing it to detach. If the retina detaches, the tissue is no longer able to transmit light images to the brain. This results in blurred vision, a blind spot or permanent loss of vision, depending on severity.
Symptoms of Retinal Tears
While some retinal tears or holes are asymptomatic, warning signs that you have have a retinal tear or hole include:
New floaters – black spots, lines, cobwebs that float in your vision
Curtain in blocking a part of your vision
If these symptoms are new, we recommend a dilated eye exam as soon as possible. Treatment in many cases can prevent progression of a tear to a detachment.
Treatment of Retinal Tears and Holes
Retinal tears need to be treated with laser surgery, which creates small burns around the tear. Eventually, these burns become small scars and barricade the tear from enlarging. During the procedure, you may see several bright flashing lights.
It is advisable to bring someone to drive you home after the procedure, as your vision will be temporarily blurry for up to 30-60 minutes post-procedure.