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Detached retina

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:48 pm
The retina (RET-uh-nuh) is the inner layer of tissue in the back of the eye on which your eye focuses light rays. A detached retina is a serious condition in which the retina has separated from the outer layers of the eye. The detachment may be small and insignificant, or it can involve the entire retina, resulting in blindness if it's not quickly and properly treated. Retinal detachments can occur for many reasons, such as a blunt or penetrating injury to the eye, as a complication of cataract surgery, or following an inflammation of the eye. Symptoms include the awareness of bright, flashing lights or the appearance of dark, moving specks, known as floaters. You don't feel any pain, because the retina doesn't contain pain receptors. If you're nearsighted, your retina is more likely to become detached because your eye is oblong, causing the retina to stretch, which makes it thinner and more vulnerable to tearing (TARE-ing). Holes or tears (TARES) can develop in the thinned retina, through which fluid can pass and separate the retina from the adjacent layers of your eye. A detached retina can be fixed if the problem is caught in time. However, if it isn't detected and repaired, it can proceed until a large segment becomes detached, and you may notice part of your vision missing, or the appearance of a curtain covering part of your eye. Once the retina has actually detached, it must be repaired with surgery, and if it's been severed (SEV-ered) for any length of time, you may require multiple procedures. Failure to seek treatment in time can result in blindness in the affected eye. Only an ophthalmologist (off-thul-MAHL-uh-jist), a medical doctor who specializes in eye health and disease, can determine the cause of the symptoms by performing a thorough, dilated examination of the retina and perform any surgical procedures, as required.
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