What is the retina?
The retina is a thin, delicate tissue that lines the back wall of the eye. It is responsible for converting and decoding the light that is focused by the eye into tiny electrical impulses that can be transported to and interpreted by the brain. Vision is not possible without a functioning retina.
The vitreous is a jellylike material that fills the central compartment of the eye. It plays an important role in helping maintain the optical clarity of the eye.
Retinal conditions can be diagnosed only by a thorough eye examination that includes the dilation of the pupil. The condition of your eyesight and the total health of your eyes are examined thoroughly in an eye examination. Your visual acuity is checked to determine your present level of vision. Then, a slit lamp is used to look inside your eye. After dilation of the pupil with eye drops, instruments are used to allow a close examination of the retina structure. Other testing devices may be used to help determine the extent to which retinal disease may be present.
Most retinal conditions can be successfully treated, especially with early diagnosis. Flashes and floaters can be an indication of a potentially serious problem with the retina. Only a dilated retinal evaluation can rule out a significant problem.
Flashers and Floaters
Flashes appear as flashing lights or as “lightning strikes” in the field of vision, although no light is actually flashing. Flashes are similar to the sensation of “seeing stars” when one is hit on the head. Flashes are most often noticed at night or in a dark room.
A floater is a small clump of gel that forms in the vitreous, which is the clear jellylike fluid that fills the cavity inside the eye. Floaters may be seen as dots, lines, cobwebs, or spiders. They are most often noticed when reading, looking at a blank wall, or gazing at a clear sky. Floaters float in the fluid inside the eye. Sometimes floaters do not interfere with vision at all. However, light is blocked and a show is cast on the retina when a floater enters the line of vision.
Whether the retina tears or not, most people find that their flashes and floaters gradually diminish over the course of weeks or months. In rare cases, floaters can persist for longer periods.
Flashes and floaters can be an indication of a potentially serious problem with the retina. Only a dilated retinal evaluation can rule out a significant problem.
Retinal detachment occurs when the retina becomes separated from the back wall of the eye. When the retina becomes detached, the blood supply is reduced and its ability to process light rays is impaired. If total detachment occurs and is not repaired, the retina becomes useless because it can no longer transmit information to the brain and the eye becomes blind.
Retinal tears and retinal detachments are serious problems that require immediate treatment. Those who are severely nearsighted or have a family history of retinal detachment should have regular eye examinations to detect any changes in the vitreous or in the retina. Those who have experienced a serious eye injury or sudden onset of flashes or floaters should be promptly examined. With early diagnosis retinal tears can be treated before retinal detachment and loss of vision occur. Retinal tears require immediate treatment to prevent retinal detachment and vision loss.
Retinal detachments must be repaired surgically. In general, treatments should be prompt. Some retinal detachments can be repaired in the office, while others require outpatient surgery in the hospital. Most retinal detachments can be repaired with one procedure, while other retinal detachments require multiple surgical procedures. The total recovery time after retinal reattachment surgery can be weeks or months.
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