Located at the back of the eye, the retina is attached to the vitreous, the gel-like substance that makes up for most of the eye's volume. Although the vitreous begins as a thick substance with a firm shape, the consistency of the gel changes and becomes thinner and more watery as we age. A change in the shape of the vitreous can cause it to pull away from the retina and leave a tear. A retinal tear leaves the retina unprotected and can allow fluid to travel between the retina and the wall, which may lead to retinal detachment.
Retinal tears may occur in patients with myopia (nearsightedness), as the condition may cause the vitreous to pull away from the retina. Although a retinal tear does not cause pain, patients may experience flashes or floaters in their field of vision, a reduction of vision, a shadow or curtain forming in the peripheral vision, or other vision changes. It is important to see your doctor at the first sign of a retinal tear.
Early detection of a retinal tear can often prevent the retina from detaching through prompt treatment. A retinal tear is usually treated with a laser to burn the area around the tear, causing it to scar and seal the retina to the tissue underneath it. This prevents fluid from flowing through the tear and leading to retinal detachment. Treatment for a retinal tear is usually effective in relieving symptoms and preventing retinal detachment from occurring.