Retinal tears can lead to a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss and possible blindness.
Successful treatment of a retinal tear or retinal hole can prevent a retinal detachment from occurring.
Posterior Vitreous Detachment
Also known as a PVD, a posterior vitreous detachment is the most common cause of a retinal tear. The most common symptoms of a PVD are sudden flashes and floaters.
Any acute flashes or floaters require a complete dilated examination of the retina looking specifically for a retinal tear.
Retinal holes are usually not caused by a posterior vitreous detachment, trauma or other eye surgery. Most retinal tears are associated/caused by lattice degeneration, a common “normal” finding in many near-sighted patients.
For the purposes of this article, both retinal tears and retinal holes are treated using the same techniques.
Laser Treatment for Retinal Tears
The preferred treatment of a retinal tear is with laser treatment. Laser light is used to create scarring around the retinal tear to prevent fluid from migrating underneath the retina. This does not really fix the retinal tear, but it does prevent a retinal detachment from occurring.
Laser treatment can be performed easily in the office setting and usually does not require any aftercare. Most retinal specialists will recheck the retina a few weeks after laser treatment.
Laser treatment usually does not cause pain when applied. There are no nerves in the retina, but there are some deeper nerves in certain locations of the eye that can cause “discomfort.”
Cryotherapy for Retinal Tears
Not all tears can be treated with the laser. Cryotherapy, an older treatment, can be equally effective.
For laser treatment to succeed, your retinal specialist must be able to see the entire retinal tear. Some tears can not be completely visualized due to:
- Vitreous hemorrhage (blood)
- Anterior location (hard to “see” the entire retina without special techniques/instruments)
- Intraocular implants
Cryotherapy treats retinal tears by freezing them from the outside of the eye. Because cryotherapy requires manipulation and indentation of the eye, more tears can be treated that otherwise could not be fixed with laser.
As a last resort, intraocular surgery called vitrectomy can be used to treat a retinal tear. In this situation, a laser probe is introduced inside the eye at the time of surgery to treat the tear. Using the endolaser, the tear or hole is treated from the inside of the eye. While virtually any tear can be treated in this fashion, it does require an invasive procedure and must be performed in the operating room.
Regardless of the modality of treatment, the results are the same. The goal is to prevent retinal detachments from occurring.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us (877) 245.2020.