Five Warning Signs of Retinal Detachment (That Could Save You From Blindness)

Five Warning Signs of Retinal Detachment (That Could Save You From Blindness)
March 15, 2013 11:00 PM

When the thin membrane at the back of your eye detaches from the supporting blood vessels that supply it with nutrients and oxygen, this is called retinal detachment. It is considered to be a medical emergency, as without immediate surgical treatment it can result in blindness.

While retinal detachment is not painful, it is usually accompanied by other symptoms, and the more quickly you seek treatment for these symptoms then the less likely the condition is to be serious in your case. Read on to discover the five major warning signs of this frightening problem, and learn how to identify retinal detachment before it leads to blindness for you or a loved one.

1) Seeing flashing lights

One of the main symptoms of retinal detachment consists in the appearance of short, bright flashes of white light. These flashes are most obvious when you are in the dark or are in a room with low levels of lighting, and they are usually seen in the peripheral vision (in other words, they appear to be coming from your far left or far right). Unless you have been previously diagnosed as suffering from migraines that come with this particular symptom, the appearance of flashing lights should be taken as a sign to seek immediate medical attention.

2) The development of new ‘floaters’

Floaters are dark spots, threads or shadows that appear before your eyes. If you hold your eyes steady, the floaters will gradually ‘drop down’ your visual field. Floaters are extremely common and usually entirely harmless, but if you develop them for the first time or notice a large increase in their number then this is cause to be urgently concerned about retinal detachment.

3) Noticing shadowy or dark areas in part of the visual field

If you begin to see a patch of shadow, this is a sign that your retina may be at risk of detaching. Sometimes, retinal detachment is accompanied by a more dramatic loss of vision, creating an entirely blackened area in the visual field. This is often described by patients as looking like a ‘dark curtain’ that moves down to obscure most of their vision in one eye.

4) Suffering from blurred vision

In some people, blurred vision is a sign of retinal detachment. As a result, if your vision becomes very blurry in one eye then it is best to err on the side of caution and get a doctor or ophthalmologist to look at your retina.

5) Feeling a ‘heavy’ sensation in one eye

A select number of patients also report a feeling of minor but uncomfortable heaviness in the eye where the retinal detachment is occurring.

If you keep all of the above warning signs in mind, you will always detect any symptoms of retinal detachment in the early stages of the condition’s development. Never forget that in spite of its seriousness, retinal detachment does not cause pain, so a lack of discomfort in your eye should not be taken as a reassuring sign that you are not at risk. Up to 85% of cases are successfully cured with just one surgical procedure, but it is also important to stress that a quick diagnosis of retinal detachment gives you the best chance of fully regaining your vision in the damaged eye. As a result of the link between early diagnosis and effective treatment, you should view any sign of retinal detachment as serious, and never wait a few hours or a few days before reporting your worrying symptoms. After all, it is better to waste some time and money on an unnecessary investigation than it is to lose vision in oneeye.

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Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Medical student, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Published: March 15, 2013 11:00 PM
Next scheduled update: March 15, 2015 11:00 PM
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