A retinal tear is a full-thickness rip in the retina. The most common cause of a retinal tear is an age-related process that involves the vitreous gel in the middle of the eye. When we are young, the vitreous gel is firmly attached to the retina. As we age, the vitreous gel begins to liquefy and pull away from the retina. Typically, the vitreous will let go of the retina as it pulls away from the retina. Occasionally, the vitreous tugs too hard on the retina and causes a retinal tear. If a tear is present, the eye is at risk for a retinal detachment.
Symptoms of a retinal tear include new floaters, flashing lights, or a curtain-like shade over the vision.
If a retinal tear is detected, it may be treated with either a laser or freezing (cryotherapy) procedure. These procedures act to adhere the retina to the eye wall so that a retinal detachment is less likely to occur.
Trauma to the eye may also cause retinal tears. Any patient experiencing new flashes or floaters after eye trauma should have their retinas examined.