A torn or detached retina is a serious eye problem. It is, in fact, a medical emergency. If untreated, it can lead to blindness. This happens most often in older people, but can happen to younger ones as well. It now turns out that the Prime Minister of Britain also has a torn retina. This could be concerning because he lost vision in his left eye many years ago after injuring it during a rugby match at school.
What is the retina?
The retina is the part of the eye that lines the inside of the eye. It is light sensitive and sends messages from the eye, through the optic nerve and to the brain. If this detaches or tears, it can no longer send images from that part of the eye.
A retinal detachment can occur at any age, but it is more common in people over age 40. It affects men more than women, and Whites more than African Americans.
A retinal detachment is also more likely to occur in people who:
Are extremely nearsighted
Have had a retinal detachment in the other eye
Have a family history of retinal detachment
Have had cataract surgery
Have other eye diseases or disorders, such as retinoschisis, uveitis, degenerative myopia, or lattice degeneration
Have had an eye injury
What are the symptoms?
It’s important to remember that this is not painful; you won’t feel if something has happened to the retina. However, watch for:
little “cobwebs” in your field of vision
specks that float in your field of vision
light flashes in the eye
a “curtain” over the field of vision
If you have any of these symptoms, you should be checked by an eye specialist as soon as possible. The sooner a retinal detachment or tear is treated, the higher the chances of successful treatment.
Some people have laser surgery or surgery that helps the eye surgeon inject substances into the eye to help heal the tears. If the retina has detached, surgery is the only option but the results are usually quite good. According to the NEI, there is a 90% success rate among people who have surgery for a detached retina.
As for Prime Minister Brown, news reports say that although he has had a couple of minor tears, his sight in his right eye remains stable, but he has his eyes checked regularly to watch for any changes.