RD Dictionary

It occurred to me that there are many words and phrases which people new to RD may not understand, so I figured it would be sensible to start compiling a kind of explanation of some of them.  I’ll add to this page as I go along…

Cryotherapy = Freezing treatment, sometimes used instead or in addition to laser, to stick the retina back in place or mend holes or tears.

Gas bubble = This is where, during a vitrectomy operation, a short or long acting gas bubble is inserted into the eye as a kind of internal splint, to hold the retina in place. It gradually disperses during the weeks following the operation.

IOL = Intraocular lens.  This is the plastic lens which is implanted into the eye during a cataract operation, when the natural lens (which has turned cloudy as a result of the cataract) is removed.

Laser = Used to essentially stick the retina back into place, or to mend holes or tears.  A surgeon once told me to think about it as a thin line of superglue.

Oil = In the same principle as the gas bubble, silicone oil is sometimes used instead of gas to act as an internal splint.  Oil is used in cases of complex or repeat re-detachments, and it acts as a more permanent splint as an additional operation is required to remove it.

Ophthalmologist = An eye surgeon.

Optometrist = A person qualified to conduct an eyesight test and prescribe corrective lenses, and diagnose certain eye conditions.

Optician = A person qualified to design and fit glasses and other methods of correcting eyesight.

Posturing = Sitting or lying in a certain position after a vitrectomy, to ensure that the gas or oil bubble which has been inserted within the eye pushes against the correct part of the retina like an internal splint, to help to push it flat and heal correctly.

PVR = Proliverative retinopathy, a complication of retinal detachment surgery.  Put in hugely simple terms, I think of this as ‘bad scar tissue’, which essentially pulls the retina off again.

Retinectomy = The cutting away of a part of the retina which won’t lie flat.  This is done during a vitrectomy operation.

RD = retinal detachment.  The retina is like a thin lining at the back of your eye, and it detaches when a hole or tear causes fluid to seep beneath it and pull it away from the nourishing tissues underneath.  The retina has no pain receptors, so a detachment is painless, however loss of vision occurs and a detachment should be treated as a medical emergency.

Visual acuity = This refers to the clarity of vision, which is usually tested by use of the Snellen Chart (the chart with all the letters at varying sizes).  A visual acuity of 6/6 (or 20/20, if measuring in feet) means that a person can see detail from 6 metres away, and this represents ‘normal’ eyesight.  If a person has 6/36 visual acuity, this means that they can see from 6 metres away what a person with ‘normal’ eyesight would be able to see from 36 metres away.

Vitrectomy = Retinal detachment surgery, where the vitreous fluid is removed from the eye in order for the necessary surgery to be performed on the back of the eye.

Vitreous fluid or vitreous jelly = The fluid inside the eye.