Earl Watson, Guard for the UCLA Bruins
WHAT IS A HOLE IN THE RETINA? continued...
Both holes and tears are most often caused by direct trauma to the eye. In
these instances, due to outside pressure, the eye is temporarily misshapen, and
because the retina is delicately held in place by jelly within the eye, the
subsequent pulling from different sides can cause the thin layer of tissue to
tear. This type of injury is called a "closed globe injury" (wholly
within the eye, with the eye remaining intact) as opposed to an "open globe
injury" (in which something enters the eye; the eye has a perforating
Tears are far more common than holes. In Watson's case, like most, the hole
or tear is near the front part of the retina (called the ora). When the retina
tears or is injured in any way, a patient might see a flash of light (called
photopsia), and if there is a hemorrhage, could see "floaters" or
splotches in his vision. After the event, the patient might see a black curtain
across his vision that slowly moves to cover the entire line of sight, which
could indicate that the retina has come off the back of the eye (retinal
Inner eye injuries are diagnosed by ocular exam. Doctors will examine the
eye and search around the retina looking for inconsistencies, tears, and holes.
Tears to ora are often quite difficult to find because doctors must peer almost
perpendicularly into the eye. These exams are done using lights that enable the
doctor to see into the eye and look very closely at the retina, pupil, lens,
and ora of the eye.
The standard treatment for minor defects in the retina is laser surgery. It
works because the microscopic beams of light are shined into the eye, and are
picked up by the pigments behind the retina. This controlled welding bonds the
retina and the wall of the eye. Over about two months, the laser treatment
develops into an "elegant little scar" that prevents the retina from
detaching further. If the retina does detach completely, it can no longer be
treated using laser surgery. In this case, incisional surgery is necessary to
reflatten the retina because the pigment of the retina will not pick up the
laser unless it is firmly in place against the back of the eye. The laser
surgery is mainly a preventive procedure, protecting the eye from future
injuries that would occur more easily if the eye were already damaged.