The retina is the light-sensing membrane that captures and transmits images to the brain. Most retinal detachments experienced by individuals are originally caused by a small tear or hole in this sensitive retina wall. Often due to thinning of the retina or shrinking of the vitreous gel within the eye over time, retinal detachments cause vision loss that may become permanent if not treated quickly and effectively. Often affecting those individuals who are middle-aged or older, retinal tears and detachments are most common in nearsighted individuals and those with a genetic predisposition.
Prompt treatment of a retinal detachment is vital to the prevention of permanent vision loss. Scleral buckling, pneumatic retinopexy and vitrectomies are the most common treatments of retinal detachment. These treatments help press the retina against the wall of the eye and hold the tissues in place so that they can heal. Surgical retinal reattachment surgery is conducted through a quick one-and-a-half to two-hour surgery.
Although every surgery comes with its risk of complications, most retinal detachments come with infrequent and treatable complications, which include: bleeding under the retina, cataracts, recurrence, or infection.
Going Home after Surgery
Retinal detachment surgery is normally followed by a short recovery at the hospital before returning home. Patients can often return to normal activity one to two weeks after surgery. Traveling should be avoided for some time, and increases in altitude should be avoided until cleared by the surgeon.
Pain and Eye Protection
After a retinal detachment surgery is performed the eye may be inflamed, sore, and swollen for some time. Although very little pain is expected after surgery, pain medications are often sent home with the patient to aid in post-surgical pain control. Eye drops and an eye patch may be necessary aftercare to keep the eye moist, sanitized, and protected. A shield may also be used to avoid accidental pressure on the eye during sleep. Follow-up visits will be scheduled for the day after surgery and again for regular checkups over the next two to three months depending on patient progress. Some discharge is expected during the healing process, but the eye should be monitored for unusual drainage.
Care will need to be taken when showering not to get soap in the eye. Some procedures require a gas bubble to be placed in the eye during surgery to help keep the retina pressed up against the inner wall of the eye. Patients may be asked to position their head facing down to aid in the effect of this pressure bubble. This positioning may be necessary for one to two weeks after surgery.
The first week after surgery should be reserved for rest and slow movement. Excessive close concentration or TV watching should be avoided to prevent eye strain and further discomfort. Some patients may experience sensitivity to light after surgery. Activity can often be resumed after a month, but heavy lifting over 20 pounds and strenuous activities should be avoided while the eye heals.
Driving should also be avoided until vision improves and stabilizes. Initial depth perception and field of view is compromised after surgery and care should be taken before patients get back behind the wheel. Sedentary jobs may be returned to between ten and fourteen days after surgery, but more active jobs should be cleared by the surgeon before resumed.
Surgical treatment for retinal detachment is successful in over 90 percent of cases. If the retinal reattachment is a success, the patient will have some degree of vision restored. Depending on the condition of the retina, a varying degree of reading and traveling vision may be restored, and oftentimes patients can expect a full recovery of their vision.
A period of healing is necessary after surgery before patients will begin to see an improvement in their vision. This improvement should be expected to begin two weeks after surgery, and within six weeks postoperative vision improvement should be complete. The retina may continue to heal for a year or more, and it may take months for vision to stabilize after surgery.
Retinal detachment procedures are highly successful, come with few complications, and are imminent when a detachment occurs to help restore vision before blindness becomes permanent. Recovery is quick and requires a short period of rest and care while the retina heals and vision improves.