Vitreous Separation, Retinal Tear, and Retinal Detachment
Posterior Vitreous Detachment and Retinal Tear
As part of the aging process, at some point in our life, the vitreous will shrink and separate from the back of the eye. The onset of the vitreous separation is usually accompanied by symptoms of "flashes and floaters".
Because the retina is an extremely thin and fragile structure, if the vitreous separation produces sufficient force, it can cause a break or tear in the retinal surface. Fortunately, when the retina tears, it usually does so in the far corners of the retina, which therefore does not compromise the patient's vision. However, retinal breaks or tears can over time (days to years) begin to accumulate fluid underneath them, which can gradually cause the retina itself to separate from the wall of the eye with disastrous consequences on one's vision.
It is for this reason, that patients who have symptoms of vitreous separation should be evaluated for the presence of retinal tears. If retinal tears are found, they are usually sealed (using laser or cryotherapy) so as to prevent retinal detachment from occurring.
For posterior vitreous detachment and Floaters, http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/floaters/floaters.asp
Two adjacent retinal tears
Diagram describing laser treatment of retinal tear
Once retinal detachment occurs, it is important for the patient to have the condition repaired before the central part of the retina (macula) is itself involved in the retinal detachment. Once the macula is involved, the prognosis for good vision, even after successful repair, is lessened. Methods of repair of retinal detachment include:
The type of procedure recommended depends on the characteristics of the retinal detachment.
For Retinal Detachment, http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/retinaldetach/retinaldetach.asp or
Diagram of retinal tear with subsequent detachment
Bullous retinal detachment with tear