Surgery for retinal detachment
Surgery is the only treatment for retinal detachment. The goals of surgery are:
- To reattach the retina.
- To prevent or reverse vision loss.
Almost all retinal detachments can be repaired with scleral buckle surgery, pneumatic retinopexy, or vitrectomy.
But even with such a high rate of success for surgery, it is important to act quickly. The longer you wait to have surgery, the lower the chances that good vision will be restored. When the retina loses contact with its supporting layers, vision begins to get worse. An eye doctor (ophthalmologist) who specializes in retinal detachments will usually do surgery within a few days of your being diagnosed with a detachment.
How soon you need surgery usually depends on whether the retinal detachment has or could spread far enough to affect central vision. When the macula, the part of the retina that provides central vision, loses contact with the layer beneath it, it quickly loses its ability to process what the eye sees.
- Having surgery while the macula is still attached will usually save vision.
- If the macula has become detached, surgery may occur a few days later than it would have otherwise. Good vision after surgery is still possible but less likely.
Your doctor will decide how soon you need surgery based on the result of the retinal exam and the doctor’s experience in treating retinal detachment.
Surgery for retinal tears
Treating a retinal tear may be useful if the tear is likely to lead to detachment. Symptoms such as floaters or flashing lights are key factors in deciding whether to treat a tear. A tear that occurs right after a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) with symptoms is usually much more dangerous and more likely to progress to a retinal detachment than one that occurs without symptoms.
In deciding when to treat a retinal tear, your doctor will evaluate whether the torn retina is likely to detach. If the tear is very likely to lead to detachment, treatment can usually repair it and prevent detachment and potential vision loss. If the tear is not likely to lead to detachment, you may not need treatment.