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Retinal Detachment: How would you know?

I got a floater a couple of months ago, which I ignored because I’ve had many. I also then got a flashing in my right eye. I was due into the eye doctor and was going to mention this, having no idea this was important………

About three weeks ago, I started seeing a half moon at the lower part of the eye and within about three to four days my vision was half blocked by this moon……….

On a Sunday, I began to notice an area near the nose-side of my left eye. The area was gray, but I could see through it. By Monday, the area had grown to cover the center of my eye……….

About seven weeks ago, I noticed flashing lights in my peripheral vision while driving at night. I mistakenly thought it was a vehicle moving into my lane! Later that evening what appeared to be wisps of dark smoke or cobwebs began floating across my right eye………. .

One week after running into a glass window, thinking it was an open sliding door, I noticed a small, dark spot in the inside corner of my right eye. The spot grew to the point that it covered my pupil……….

You have just read five patient’s accounts of what preceded their retinal detachments.  The retina is an extremely thin tissue that lines the inside of the back of the eye.  It is responsible for what we see and is thus referred to as the “seeing tissue of the eye”.  Objects we look at are focused onto the retinal tissue by the cornea and lens of the eye.  Nerve endings within the retina transmit these images to the brain through the optic nerve.  If the retina detaches from the inside of the eye vision can be permanently lost unless the retina is repaired in a timely manner.

A retinal detachment is simply the separation of the retina from within the eye. Retinal detachments occur for a variety of reasons however, a common cause is when the vitreous gel pulls loose or separates from its attachment to the retina. This is called a vitreous detachment.  A vitreous detachment is something that occurs as we age and is considered a normal aging change.  As the vitreous gel pulls loose it can sometimes cause traction on the retina and result in a retinal tear. Retinal tears will progress to retinal detachments if not promptly diagnosed and treated.

Retinal detachments are more likely to develop in people who are nearsighted or those with a family history of retinal detachment.  Trauma to the eye, such as a contusion, direct blow or a penetrating wound, may be the cause but in the great majority of cases retinal detachments result from internal changes in the vitreous chamber associated with aging, diabetes, or less frequently, with inflammation inside the eye.

Symptoms of retinal detachment include flashes of light, wavy or watery vision, a veil or curtain obstructing vision, a shower of floaters that resemble spots, bugs, or spider webs, or a sudden decrease in vision. It is critical that these symptoms be reported immediately because timely treatment can greatly improve the chance of restoring vision in the event of a retinal detachment.  Immediately upon experiencing symptoms such as these, you should see your eye doctor.  In the event you are simply experiencing a vitreous detachment, you will be given additional symptoms to watch for and asked to return for a follow up visit.  The follow up visit is as important or, even more so, to ensure the vitreous changes are completed and you are safe for dismissal.

Retinal detachments require surgery to return the retina to its proper position inside the eye. There are several ways to fix a detached retina. The decision of which type of surgery is based on a number of factors including location of the retinal tear or detachment, pre-existing conditions, health of the patient, and cause of the detachment.

If you ever experience any of the symptoms described above, please contact one of our office in Stillwater at 405-372-1715 .  If it is after hours or on the weekend, we always have a doctor on call to evaluate you right away.  We also invite you to visit our website at and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eyecare Center!