When your child comes to you and says she is seeing black spots, or floaters, you will naturally feel concerned. These black spots are probably not a reason for concern, as long as they only occur once or for only a few seconds, according to Medline Plus. Many people, including children, see these spots from time to time. However, if the spots persist or become more frequent, your child may have a detached retina.
The retina is a clear lens located toward the back of your eye. Its function is to receive the images transmitted through the cornea and the lens. Retinal detachment is a condition in which the retina is tearing away from the eye. This conditions sounds more painful than it is; despite the sensitive area in which it occurs, a detached retina isn't painful for most people and for many people its only symptom is recurrent black spots in the visual field.
Retinal detachment can occur because of trauma to the eye, from a recent surgery on the eye, from diabetes or for no reason at all. Retinal detachment is rare in children. Children only account for 3.2 to 6.6 percent of all cases of retinal detachment, according to a German study conducted in 2008. The main causes of a detached retina in children is trauma, nearsightedness or a condition called retinopathy of prematurity, in which the blood vessels in the eye develop in an abnormal manner.
Surgery is the only option for a torn retina. Retinal reattachment surgery can be performed with a laser, by placing a gas bubble in the eye to help the retina return to its normal position, or by applying cold to the retina with an ice probe to cause the retina to form a scar that will hold it in place. Retinal reattachment surgeries have a 79 percent success rate, so the chances are good that the surgery will restore your child's eyesight, according to a 2003 study in Opthamology.
When to Consult a Pediatrician or Opthamologist
Consult a pediatrician or opthamologist immediately if your child complains of frequent bouts of black spots in her visual field, if she notices bright flashes of light in her peripheral vision, or if she sees shadows or blind spots in the eye. These are all symptoms of a detached retina. The sooner your child undergoes surgery after tearing the retina, the more successful the surgery may be, so it is essential to get her in to an opthamologist as soon as you suspect that she has a torn retina.
- Medline Plus: Eye Floaters
- Medline Plus: Retinal Detachment
- Mail Online: Seeing Spots in Front of Your Eyes
- Klinische Monatsblatter fur Augenheilkunde; Retinal Detachment in Children; P. Meier
- PubMed Health: Retinopathy of Prematurity
- Opthamology; Rhegmatogenous Retinal Detachments in Children; D.V. Weinberg, et al.