Medical emergency requires immediate treatment to prevent vision loss
SAN FRANCISCO – The eye problem that has sidelined Phoenix Suns power forward Amaré Stoudemire for the rest of the basketball season strikes thousands of Americans annually and can lead to blindness if left untreated. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (Academy) reminds the public that anyone experiencing the symptoms of a retinal detachment or tear should see an ophthalmologist immediately to prevent possible vision loss.
Stoudemire’s injury also highlights the fact that tens of thousands of sports and recreation-related eye injuries occur each year. Sports-related eye injuries occur most frequently in baseball, basketball and racquet sports. Ninety percent of eye injuries can be prevented by wearing protective eyewear.
Stoudemire injured his right eye last Wednesday during a game with the Los Angeles Clippers in which he scored 42 points. A routine checkup Thursday afternoon by team ophthalmologist Jay Schwartz, DO, detected a problem, and Stoudemire was referred to Pravin Dugel, MD, a retinal specialist and clinical correspondent for the Academy, for an examination that same evening.
“Amaré’s vision in his right eye had deteriorated and he had blood in his eye,” says Dr. Dugel, managing partner of Retinal Consultants of Arizona in Phoenix. “He had a very large retinal detachment.” Dr. Dugel noted that Stoudemire had suffered a previous eye injury and that some of the damage to his retina may have been the result of previous trauma. Trauma is a leading cause of retinal detachments, especially in people age 25 to 45.
Dr. Dugel performed surgery on the player on Friday. Stoudemire is not expected to return to play for eight weeks while his eye heals. Strenuous activity can cause the retina to become detached again. "People have to understand this is something very serious," Dr. Dugel said. "For him, activity isn't hitting a tennis ball or jogging. That's what makes this thing a lot more tenuous."
“A detached retina is a very serious condition and a sight-threatening medical emergency,” says Dr. Dugel. “Surgery is almost always necessary to correct the problem. An untreated retinal detachment usually leads to permanent blindness or severe vision loss, so it’s critical to see an ophthalmologist promptly if you experience symptoms.”
The eye is like a camera. The lens in the front of the eye focuses light onto the retina, a nerve layer in the back of your eye that transmits images to your brain. A retinal detachment occurs when the retina is pulled away from its normal position. A clear gel called the vitreous fills the middle of the eye and as we age may pull away from its attachment to the retina. Usually this separation causes no problems, but sometimes the vitreous can pull hard enough to tear or detach the retina in one or more places. Untreated retinal tears frequently lead to retina detachment.
Early symptoms that may indicate the presence of a retinal detachment include flashing lights, new floaters, a shadow in the periphery or your field of vision or a gray curtain moving across your field of vision. In addition to trauma, risk factors for retinal detachment include aging, nearsightedness (especially high degrees of nearsightedness), previous retinal tear or retinal detachment in either eye, a family history of retinal detachment, and weak areas in the peripheral retina that can often be detected by an ophthalmologist.
“There are several ways to fix a retinal detachment,” says Dr. Dugel. “The decision about the type of surgery and whether to use local or general anesthesia depends upon the nature of the detachment, the patient’s general health and the preferences of the retinal surgeon, the anesthesiologist and the patient.”
For more information about retinal detachments and eye injuries, please visit http://www.geteyesmart.org .
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons – Eye M.D.s – with more than 27,000 members worldwide. Eye healthcare is provided by the three “Os” – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases, infections and injuries, and perform eye surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy’s website at http://www.aao.org .