What Is Rhegmatogenous Retinal Detachment?

Stephany Seipel

Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment happens when the retina, which is a thin layer of nerve tissue in the back of the eye, becomes detached from the rest of the eye. This condition might cause blindness if left untreated. Doctors can use various techniques to surgically reattach the retina.

The retina is a lining of tissue located at the back of the eye, which is sensitive to light.
The retina is a lining of tissue located at the back of the eye, which is sensitive to light.

This disorder happens when the retina experiences a tear or break. The vitreous fluid, which is the liquid inside the center of the eye, enters the break. It pushes the retina from behind and lifts it out of position. The nerve tissue cells die when they are cut off from their source of nutrients, resulting in vision loss.

Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment is most prevalent in adults between the ages of 40 and 70. Men, nearsighted individuals and people who have a family history of rhegmatogenous retinal detachment are at higher risk than the general population. People who have already experienced this condition in the other eye are also at risk.

Patients whose retinas have detached might see bright sparkles of light or might see dark lines or squiggles called "floaters." These individuals might also experience a loss of peripheral vision, which appears as a dark, moon-shaped area in the corner of the eye. As the condition progresses, the loss of peripheral vision gradually expands to include the central vision. Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment can eventually cause total blindness in the affected eye.

The position of the macula, a spot in the middle of the retina, determines the severity of the condition. Patients whose maculas are still attached have a better chance of regaining their normal vision. A patient whose macula has detached might suffer permanent vision loss.

An ophthalmologist can diagnose rhegmatogenous retinal detachment by dilating the eye and performing a physical examination. He or she treats the detached retina by performing a procedure called a scleral buckle. The doctor sews a piece of plastic or silicone to the white, outer part of the eye to push the retina back in place.

The physician might also inject a gas bubble into the eye to push the retina back into position. This procedure, called pneumatic retinopexy, resolves simple cases of rhegmatogenous retinal detachment. The condition usually improves in a day or two, but the patient must be careful about moving his or her head for about seven to 14 weeks after surgery.

A vitrectomy involves using surgical tools to reattach the retina. The doctor removes the vitreous fluid and repairs the eye while the patient is under general anesthesia. Depending on the severity of the condition, the doctor might also apply a scleral buckle to keep the retina in place.

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