Clinical Negligence Claims Lawyers for Retinal Detachment

Clinical Negligence Claims Lawyers for Retinal Detachment

eye with detached retina

What does retinal detachment mean?

Retinal Detachment occurs when the lining of the back of the eye separates from the “RPE” (the layer of blood vessels which supplies the back of the eye with blood and oxygen). If left untreated, without oxygen, the nerves in the eye can die and lead to blindness.

The most common cause of retinal detachment is degeneration of the retina with age. As the retina becomes weaker and thinner, liquid can move into the space between the retina and the RPE and force the membranes apart.

Age is not the only risk factor; people who suffer from severe short-sightedness (technical term,“myopia”) are at an increased risk of developing retinal detachment. People who have recently undergone cataract surgery also have a higher chance of developing the condition.

If you have any of the signs or symptoms of Retinal Detachment, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor as soon as possible. The sooner a diagnosis can be made, then the better chance at saving vision in the eye.

Signs and Symptoms of Retinal Detachment

Unlike most conditions, there is no pain associated with retinal detachment but you will start to notice changes in your vision.

a colour illustration of retinal detachmentIn the early stages of a detachment of the retina, you may notice an increased number of “floaters” in your vision. Floaters are the odd little dots and lines which appear in your vision, most noticeable when looking at something against a light background. Floaters are caused by harmless debris floating around inside the jelly-like substance that fills the eye. Ordinarily, floaters are harmless and do not affect vision.  However, a sudden change and increase in the numbers of floaters in your vision can be an early sign of retinal detachment and any significant changes in our vision should be reported to your doctor.

It is also common to experience sudden flashing lights or spreading of dark spots at the edge of your vision. Consult a doctor immediately if you begin to experience any reduction in your vision.

Once the retina detaches, you will normally experience a sudden deterioration in your vision. This may be in the form of blurring or by the onset of large dark shadows across your vision.

Spotting the symptoms in others can sometimes be difficult. Children or vulnerable adults who may not be able to communicate the changes in vision which they are experiencing can find the vision changes scary and upsetting. Discussing eyesight regularly and monitoring behaviour for early warning signs may help others who may not find it as easy to help themselves.

How is a detached Retina diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects retinal detachment, they will normally perform a simple test to look at the back of the eye. If a slit lamp exam can’t get a good enough view of the back of your eye, then your doctor may perform an ultrasound on your retina. This is a very quick and painless test using a small scanner. This is similar to the ones at your normal optician appointments.

If the signs of retinal detachment are there, your doctor will refer you for treatment to re-attach the retina.

What are the treatment options for a detached retina?

Treatment options vary depending on your own condition, the severity of the tear, and the length of time which has passed since the detachment began.

The most common treatment is laser surgery, called photocoagulation, to burn the retina creating scar tissue that bonds the retina back into place. The back of the eye can also be frozen with a small probe to obtain the same result. This is called ‘Cryopexy’. Both of these procedures can be carried out at an eye clinic rather than having a big operation.

Other treatments may require you to have surgery. These include a ‘Scleral buckle’ where a soft, flexible band is used to counteract the pressure of the detached retina. The fluid behind the detachment can then drain, allowing the retina to return to its original position. Alternatively, a bubble of oil or gas can be injected into the eye. This increases the pressure on the eye and pushes the retina back allowing the detachment to heal.

Each treatment option carries its own risks and prospects of success, but, provided the detachment is diagnosed and treated quickly enough, the risks of complications are reduced and the chances of making a full recovery are better.

Failure to diagnose detachment of the retina

The length of time between detachment and treatment is key to your chances of recovery. If your doctor fails to diagnose the detachment in time, the tear can worsen and your prospects of recovery can reduce.

In August 2019, NICE revised national guidance for this condition. If a patient has new-onset flashes, with or without floaters and there are concerns about detachment, there should be specialist assessment most urgently.

  • Immediately arrange for a specialist ophthalmologist to examine on the same day. This should be done if eyesight is impaired (visual field loss or reduced clarity of vision).
  • Urgent referral for examination within 24 hours if there is no impairment as described above no clinical signs of a detached retina.
  • Other advice should be given about driving and looking out for further warning signs.

How can a solicitor help?

If you have been the victim of clinical negligence, we can help you through the process of getting compensation. If you’ve had any problems relating to your treatment, contact our friendly team today for a free chat about your options. Have a look at our “loss of eyesight” page for some further information about the people we’ve been able to help and the range of compensatory awards for eyesight injuries. Click here to access the Loss of Eyesight page.

£46,000 in compensation

Our client received £46,000 in compensation in our most recent case. He was urgently referred by his optician to whom he complained about a shadow on his eye. A specialist examined him on the same day. However, the specialist got the diagnosis wrong and did not offer treatment. Ten days later the ‘shadow’ grew in size and then the claimant completely lost the sight in his left eye. There was a 17-day delay in surgical repair of retinal detachment. Our client did manage to return to work despite suffered a permanent sight reduction in his left eye.

If you would like to know where to go for Support and Advice in relation to your finances and for emotional support, click here.

Contact our Retinal Detachment Medical & Clinical Negligence Claims Lawyers

We provide urgent legal advice and support for patients anywhere in England & Wales. We have doctors and barristers located all over the UK, who provide us with meeting facilities. These are in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Yorkshire, Oxford, Manchester, Leeds, Hull, Liverpool, Newcastle and beyond. Our team will travel to see clients. We think it best to see our clients in the comfort of their own home over a cup of tea. You are not a number to us. Call or email our friendly team free of charge for specialist legal advice. We offer no win no fee.