The retina is the inner lining of the back of the eye that is responsible for collecting light rays and sending the light impulses to the brain for processing. The middle portion of the inside of the eye is made up of a clear gel known as the vitreous. Over time the vitreous can break down, leading to small clumps of gel casting a shadow on the retina. The shadows of these clumps are visualized as small dots, strings, or specks in your vision. These are known as "floaters". As eyes age, the vitreous gel begins to shrink and contract, which leads to pulling on the retina. Sometimes the vitreous pulls on the retina enough to cause a tear in the retinal tissue. This tear can allow fluid to pass through and lift the retina, similar to wallpaper peeling off a wall. This detachment of the retina causes blurred vision, and if not treated can lead to blindness. Patients at highest risk of developing retinal detachments include patients who are nearsighted, have a family history of retinal detachments, have glaucoma or previous eye injuries, or have weak areas in the retina. Not all patients experience symptoms with a retinal tear or detachment. This is another reason to have an annual dilated examination. If a retinal tear or detachment is present, treatment is necessary to limit loss of vision and preserve the remaining vision. Retinal tears and detachments may be treated surgically by several different methods. An Ophthalmologist may use Laser Photocoagulation, Cryopexy, Pneumatic Retinopexy, or a Scleral Buckle to repair the retina. These surgeries each present a different set of advantages and the most appropriate is chosen based on each individual patient's circumstances.
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