Retinal Tear or Detachment

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Vitreous Floaters, Vitreous Detachment, Retinal Tear and Retinal Detachment

The vast majority of the eye is filled with a gel substance called the vitreous gel.  At birth, the vitreous gel is firmly attached to the delicate tissue lining the back wall of the eye called the retina.  The vitreous gel undergoes changes with age, and small collections of cells or clumps of debris can cast shadows on the retina.  The shadows are experienced as floaters in the vision, and although they seem to be in the outside world, they are actually due to material in the vitreous gel of the eye.  In most people, the vitreous gel eventually releases from its attachments to the retina, called a posterior vitreous detachment.

In almost everyone, the vitreous gel eventually starts to separate from its attachments to the retina. The separation of the vitreous from the retina can create traction on the retina and trigger flashes in the vision.  The vitreous gel may also separate completely from the retina, called a posterior vitreous detachment.  A posterior vitreous detachment itself is not harmful, but it important that a dilated eye exam is performed to rule out the presence of a retinal tear or detachment.

Sometimes, as the vitreous gel separates from the retina, it causes a retinal tear in the thin lining of the retina.  If fluid enters through the retinal tear, it can track underneath the retina and cause a retinal detachment.  Retinal tears, if caught early, can be treated with laser or cryotherapy to prevent the formation of a retinal detachment.  This is vital, because retinal detachments can lead to loss of vision and even blindness.