The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye and sends visual messages through the optic nerve to the brain. Retinal detachments often develop in eyes with retinas weakened by a hole or tear. This allows fluid to seep underneath, weakening the attachment so that the retina becomes detached – rather like wallpaper peeling off a damp wall. When detached, the retina cannot compose a clear picture from the incoming rays and vision becomes blurred and dim.
If not promptly treated, retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.
An ophthalmologist can look carefully at your eye with special instruments to determine what’s causing your visual symptoms. It’s possible to tell if you have a retinal hole, tear or detachment by looking at your retina with an ophthalmoscope — an instrument with a bright light and powerful lens that allows your doctor to view the inside of your eyes in great detail and in three dimensions.
If blood in your vitreous cavity prevents a clear view of the retina, your ophthalmologist might also use sound waves (ultrasonography) to assess your retina. Ultrasonography is a painless test that sends sound waves through your eye to bounce off the retina. The returning sound waves create an image on a monitor that allows your doctor to determine the condition of the retina and other structures inside your eye. This test usually provides the information your doctor needs to determine whether your retina is detached.
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