Can I Have Laser Eye Surgery if I Have a Detached Retina?

Retinal detachment – also called a detached retina – is a serious complication in the eye that can have severe, and sometimes permanent, consequences. But can a history of retinal detachment prevent you from having Laser Eye Surgery? In this article, we’re taking a look at the facts, from the causes and symptoms of a detached retina to how it could affect your suitability for treatment.

What is a Detached Retina?

Retinal detachment occurs when the retina – the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye – is pulled away from its normal position. This can occur for several reasons, including as a result of trauma or injury to the eye. It may also be associated with eye surgeries and a previous history of retinal detachment; however, the most common cause of a detached retina is ageing.

There are three types of Retinal Detachment:

Rhegmatogenous Retinal Detachment

Retinal holes and tears become increasingly common as we get older. They are often caused as the fibres in the vitreous – the fluid that fills the eye – begin to shrink. In most cases, this is a completely natural and harmless part of the eye’s ageing process; however, in some cases, this shrinking can cause the retina to tear.

When a tear or break occurs in the retina, the vitreous fluid can begin to seep behind your retina. Over time, this can cause the retina to be pushed away from the back of the eye – causing detachment.

Tractional Retinal Detachment

This type of retinal detachment occurs when scar tissue on the retina pulls the tissue away from the back of the eye. The most common cause of tractional retinal detachment is diabetic retinopathy — an eye condition in people with diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy damages blood vessels in the retina causing scarring. As these scars get bigger, they can begin to pull the retina away. It is therefore important for patients with diabetes to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.

Exudative Retinal Detachment

The final type of retinal detachment occurs when fluid builds up behind the retina. Unlike in rhegmatogenous retinal detachment, this is not caused by tears or holes in the retina. This is most commonly linked to leaking blood vessels and swelling which can be caused by trauma, macular degeneration, tumours and eye diseases.

What are the Symptoms of a Detached Retina?

The presence and severity of symptoms when you have a detached retina can vary. For example, if only a small part of the retina has become separated from the back of the eye, you may not experience any symptoms at all. However, if more of the tissue becomes detached, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • The occurrence of new “floaters
  • Flashes of light across your vision
  • A dark shadow in your peripheral (side) vision

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is of the utmost importance that you seek medical advice immediately. A detached retina is a medical emergency and if it isn’t treated right away, there is an increased risk of permanent vision loss.

Laser Eye Surgery and Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment can cause significant impairment and distortion of vision. As Mr. Glenn Carp explains in the video below, this is due to the retina being in an incorrect position.

Youtube video link

Laser Eye Surgery is not a treatment for retinal detachment; however, it may still be possible to receive treatment once the issue is addressed. Once patients have sought medical attention for their detached retina and received suitable medical care, there is a good chance they may be suitable for Laser Eye Surgery.

Laser Eye Surgery can be effective at treating existing refractive errors, including myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), and astigmatism.

While patients who have resolved retinal detachment may well be suitable for Laser Eye Surgery, in some cases of severe retinal detachment that has caused significant scarring, treatment may be advised against. Each patient should be assessed on a case-by-case basis during a comprehensive screening process.

If you’d like to find out if you are suitable for Laser Eye Surgery, get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators. Alternatively, Book a Consultation today.