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What are Retinal Tears?

Retinal tears can occur for a number of reasons including shrinkage of the vitreous body which pulls on the retina. The retinal tears we’ve been describing occur when the vitreous shrinks and pulls away from the retina. At places where the vitreous holds onto the retina the tightest, traction on the retina can occur, and a tear can develop. Other causes of retinal tears may be trauma to the eye, congenital defects, and a few degenerative retinal conditions. Tears usually occur in the far peripheral retina.

A physician will be able to diagnose a retinal tear based on a three hundred sixty degree exam with careful scleral deperession. Scleral depression is often necessary to visualize the tear because it is in the far periphery.

What are the symptoms of a Retinal Tear?

Some retinal tears cause no symptoms and are only discovered when the doctor closely examines the inside of the eye. Other tears may come to a person’s attention because of floaters or flashes of light in the visual field.

When a retinal tear allows fluid to seep behind the retina, the retina can become separated from the underlying surface. This is a retinal detachment. Most retinal tears and retinal detachments occur toward the edges of the retina so a symptom can be the loss of a portion of peripheral vision. People often use the words “curtain” or “shadow” to describe the related event. An increase in floaters and flashing lights can also be symptoms of a retinal detachment.

They physicians at Retina Associates of St. Louis, Inc. remind you that unlike retinal tears, which are sometimes not immediate risks to vision, certain types of retinal detachments must be repaired relatively quickly in order to preserve vision. A retinal detachment can be an urgent medical condition. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of a retinal detachment should see an eye care professional as soon as possible.

What is the treatment for a Retinal Tear?

Retinal tears are treated preventively by applying a laser or a freezing treatment (called cryopexy) to the retina around the tear. Over the following week, a firm attachment occurs between the retina and the wall of the eye surrounding the retinal tear. This attachment functions to hold the retina in place in the same way two pieces of metal might be held together after being welded. This prevents fluid from leaking beneath the retina and causing a retinal detachment.

Laser and freezing surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis, usually in a doctor’s office. Follow-up examinations are important are important to make sure that the attachments are forming properly and that there are no new retinal tears. Laser and cryopexy treatments of retinal tears; however, new retinal tears may occur. Therefore, new symptoms should be brought to the attention of your doctor.

The physicians of Retina Associates of St. Louis, Inc. remind patients that quick action is important when experiencing symptoms of posterior vitreous detachment, retinal tear, or retinal detachment. Patients should call the office as soon as possible, describe their symptoms, and make an appointment for an extensive retinal exam by a retina specialist.