Retinal Detachment Warning Signs

December 12, 2019
Bob Carmona

Bob Carmona thought the sudden spots in his vision were nothing serious. He didn’t realize until later that his eyesight was at risk.

The first signs of a problem arose as Carmona was preparing to go on vacation. “In my right eye, I started to see little black spider webs and little black floaters,” he says. He decided to go ahead with his vacation and get his eye checked when he got back.

When he returned and saw his doctor, he was surprised to find out that he needed surgery right away. While floaters can sometimes occur with aging and be harmless, a sudden change or increase can be a symptom of an emergency with the retina — a thin layer of tissue on the back of the eye.

“Floaters and flashing lights may be the first symptoms of a retina that is torn,” explains Carmona’s ophthalmologist and surgeon, Jason C. Wickens, MD, of Retina Consultants of Nevada. If left untreated, a tear in the retina allows fluid inside the eye to get into the tear and can cause a retinal detachment, he says. Without treatment, this may lead to blindness. If the retina fully detaches and blindness occurs, it may be irreversible.

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Because Carmona’s retina had become partially detached, part of his treatment involved placing a gas bubble in his eye to help hold the retina in position. When the procedure was done, Carmona was relieved to be on the way to getting better, but recovery was a big hurdle.

For several weeks, he couldn’t go out or do any physical exercise. He had to lay on his left side, with his head face-down, while his eye healed. Living with these restrictions was difficult, and his vision while he recovered was very blurry, he says. “As a diabetic, we tend to heal a little bit slower, especially as we get older, but eventually it did start to clear up.”

Today, he’s fully recovered and back to his routine. He’s grateful to have his vision and urges others: “If your vision is normal and then you start to experience these floaters or spider webs, please get it checked out.”

“Retinal detachments are more common after the age of 50,” says Dr. Wickens. “The most common risks include a family history of retinal detachment and eyes with significant myopia (nearsightedness).” If you have symptoms like new floaters, flashing lights or a curtain-like loss of vision, see a doctor right away.