Retinal detachment usually occurs with age, but what are the causes of retinal tears? We discover the most common and usual.

The light-sensitive tissue that covers the back of our eye is called the retina, in it the different light rays are focused through the lens, the cornea and the pupil, to convert them into electrical impulses that then travel through from the optic nerve to the brain. Finally, in this very important organ they are interpreted as the images we see.

The inside of our eye is filled with vitreous, a kind of transparent gel that is attached to the retina. Occasionally, small clumps of cells or gel within the vitreous may project debris onto the retina.

At these times it is common to see small specks, dots or clouds moving across the field of vision. It is what is known as floating spots, and they are more visible when we look at a flat background, such as the case of blue sky or a simple wall.

Over the years, as we age, little by little the vitreous tends to shrink and pull on the retina, at which point it is possible to notice flashing lights, which are medically known as “flickers”.

Generally, the vitreous tends to separate from the retina without causing problems, but sometimes by pulling too hard it is capable of breaking the retina in one or more areas, so that the liquid can pass through the point where the tear has occurred, lifting it from the back of the eye, while the retina tends to separate from the back of the eye. This is what is known as retinal detachment.

What is retinal detachment?

It consists of an eye disease that occurs when there is a spontaneous separation of what is known as the neurosensory retina (the innermost layer of the retina) from the pigment epithelium (the outer layer).

When this separation occurs, the liquid tends to accumulate in the space that forms between the neurosensory retina and the pigment epithelium, so that the retina that has detached is not able to nourish itself or function properly.

Why does retinal detachment occur?

Retinal detachment is much more frequent after a certain age, since with aging it is quite common for the vitreous to shrink and pull on the retina, sometimes excessively.

In fact, it is common for the vitreous humor to shrink normally as we age – the transparent material that fills our eyeball – as it tends to change shape or move away from the retina.

If the vitreous pulls the retina and separates a piece of it, it is precisely when the retinal detachment or tear occurs. Thus, if it occurs, the vitreous humor can leak through the detachment, raising the back wall of the eye and causing the retina to detach.

Furthermore, the most common type of retinal tear is due to a retinal tear or perforation, causing the retina to separate from underlying tissues. It is due to a condition known as posterior vitreous detachment, and can be caused by very severe nearsightedness or trauma. A family history also increases the risk.

There is also another cause, known as traction detachment, which occurs mostly in people with uncontrolled diabetes, chronic inflammation, or a history of retinal surgery.


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