Probably the most anxiety producing health issues for my patients concerns the impairment, or possible loss of, their vision as they get older. These vision changes can range from not having the ability to read fine print without glasses or more serious conditions, like retinal detachment, that can cause permanent vision loss. Chances are you’ll never get a retinal detachment (RD), but I’d such as you to know more about it so you possibly can prevent it and/or recognize its possible symptoms.
Your retina is a structure at the back of your eye that light reflects onto through the front lens of your eye, and helps you see. When the retina becomes detached, it’s because a tear has somehow developed within the vitreous humor ?the jelly-like part of the attention. The retina then separates partially, or completely, away from the back of the eye, which is the source of blood and oxygen supply to the retina. If medical attention is not immediately sought to repair the retinal detachment, it can lead to permanent lack of vision. Often times, the tear may be fixed right in your ophthalmologist’s office with a laser or by putting a gas bubble into the eye. Other times it could require inpatient surgery in a hospital.
The symptoms of a retinal detachment are most always painless. Experiencing some, or the entire symptoms listed, does not necessarily mean you’ve experienced a retinal detachment. It does mean that you should get to an ophthalmologist as soon as possible to be examined. In case your symptoms seem serious enough, you must go to an emergency room at a hospital if your ophthalmologist is not available. Here’s what to look for:
Floaters. Technically called posterior vitreous detachments, “floaters?are quite common in a single, or both, eyes, as you get older. Many of my patients have them. They are little black spots, or dark threads, that move around in your field of vision which might be a results of microscopic pieces of vitreous humor debris that gets suspended there. They often dissolve on their own after a couple of months. A sudden array of many floaters, however, may signal impending RD and you should see a doctor.
Light flashes. These can be little firefly-like bleeps of light in your peripheral vision, or a more dramatic camera-flash in conjunction with your eye. These are caused by the vitreous humor tugging on the retina ?the light processor of the eye. Like floaters, their presence doesn’t necessarily mean a retinal detachment has occurred but a sudden, dramatic appearance of light flashes needs a fast trip to your ophthalmologist to rule out RD.
Loss of vision. Experiencing sudden darkening of your vision in a single eye, like a shadow, or curtain, moving across your eye, warrants immediate ophthalmologic attention. This could mean retinal detachment. If the darkening comes on gradually over days, you may be in the means of retinal detachment. Quick treatment may prevent a full RD.
What Causes Retinal Detachment?
Ophthalmologic researchers say that RD is likely caused by age-related breakdown of the vitreous humor because it tends to thicken and shrink as we get older. This puts it at greater risk from breaking away from the retina.
Some research also points to nutritional causes of vitreous humor breakdown namely dehydration, lack of antioxidants and vitamin C. The vitreous humor is mostly water and a smaller part is HA ?hyaluronic acid ?a sort of collagen/protein building block also present in your joints. Vitamin C helps build this collagen throughout your body. Trauma, previous cataract surgery, diabetes, hypertension can all be contributing factors for developing RD.
One research study could also be concerning, regarding a certain class of antibiotics, fluoroquinolones, trade name Cipro, being associated with RDs. A bunch of people with RD’s were studied and a major percentage of them had undergone a course of Cipro preceding their RD. The jury remains to be out on this possible association, but if you’re prescribed Cipro, you could need to ask your doctor if you possibly can switch to a different antibiotic.
Many researchers say that RD is a function of aging, wear and tear of the eye and really nothing can be done to prevent it. To me, that’s like saying there’s nothing you can do to decelerate aging or decrease your chance of illness and that’s just not true. Your eye tissues may be built up and fortified just as the other tissues of your body. I feel that increasing the integrity of your eye tissues can decrease your chance of developing RD.
Stay well hydrated. Your eyes are mostly water. If your body is dehydrated, your eye tissues are going to suffer as well. Drink half your weight in water on daily basis.
Optimize nutrition. Eye-specific vitamin/mineral supplements help support vision, keep eye tissues supple, and supply critical antioxidants. Take 1 daily. Some people have also reported success with floaters by supplementing with hyaluronic acid.
Protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses, visor and/or hat outdoors to forestall damaging oxidation from the sun and keep out flying debris that may damage the attention.
Retinal detachment, thankfully, is comparatively uncommon, occurring in about 1 in 10,000 people within the United States every year. Rest assured though that almost all RD’s will be successfully treated without lack of vision. Do everything possible to support and keep your eyes healthy. Keep regular eye exams and see an ophthalmologist immediately for those who experience concerning symptoms.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.