Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Retinal Detachment Dilemma

Matthias from Boulder asks:
"After playing soccer one evening, I began to get tunnel vision.  A quick internet search made me worry I might have a detached retina.  Luckily, the tunnel vision receded by the end of the evening.  But, could you tell me how I would have known that I had a detached retina, and help me understand what might have caused the tunnel vision."

A: Matthias, retinal detachments are usually characterized by 3 main symptoms:

  1. A curtain or veil appearing to drop down over the field of view.
  2. Flashes of light in a line or arc.
  3. The most common symptom--thousands of pigment cells raining down across the field of view which looks like rain to the patient.  
If you experience those symptoms, you need to lay down on your back immediately which will cause the retina to fall into the proper position within the eye to receive enough nutrients to avoid loss of vision, and then call someone to transport you to a retinal specialist to have the detachment treated.  If the retina is indeed loose, and you continue to walk around more than 15 minutes, you will lose vision.

Patients will occasionally experience other symptoms similar to retinal detachments such as Retinal migraines and temporary obscuration of vision which are do to decreased blood flow to the eye or brain and should be followed up with a visit to your family doctor.  Vision usually returns in a few minutes with migraines or TOV's, but does not with a retinal detachment.