Any blunt force trauma has the potential to damage the eyes directly or damage the area around the eyes. This impact can also cause damage that cannot be seen from the outside. Commotio retinae is a condition that occurs as a result of trauma to the eye and leads to blurred vision. An eye exam is needed to diagnose and treat commotio retinae.
Types of Trauma
There are two main classes of traumatic injuries. There are piercing wounds and blunt trauma.
A piercing wound is a scratch, stab, or similar wound that involves penetrating part of the eye or the rest of the body.
On the other hand, a blunt trauma type of injury results from a forceful impact that does not lead to penetration of any tissue.
The damage from a penetrating injury is often localized to the area that was injured while that from a blunt trauma injury can be more widespread and dispersed.
Causes of Blunt Eye Trauma
The most common cause of blunt trauma injury to the eyes is from a motor vehicle accident. In an accident, there is a high potential for both direct (coup) and indirect (countercoup) trauma to the eyes.
Other causes of blunt traumatic injuries can include being hit in the eye or face, falling and hitting the head, or having an object hit the eye or face.
Any cause of blunt trauma to the eyes can lead to commotio retinae and should be evaluated with an eye exam.
How to Diagnose Commotio Retinae
An eye doctor will perform a dilated eye exam after any type of blunt trauma to the eyes, head, or neck.
In this eye exam, the doctor is assessing for injuries and complications from the trauma including retinal detachments, hemorrhages, and commotio retinae.
If the doctor observes whitening of the retina that is consistent with the appearance of commotio retinae and there is a history of blunt trauma, the diagnosis can be made.
How Does Commotio Retinae Occur?
Commotio retinae is the result of any blunt trauma to the eye and occurs when the eye has a direct or indirect blow.
The gel-like substance inside the eye has a limited space of mobility and the force from the trauma can cause the gel to forcefully collide with the retina behind it.
The retina is delicate nervous tissue and can be damaged from this collision. This damage is the whitening that is seen in cases of commotio retinae.
Commotio retinae can occur in any direction depending on the angle and direction of the blunt trauma which caused it.
Treating Commotio Retinae
Commotio retinae will usually only mildly affect vision and may lead to a slight blurring of vision in the area of the damage.
Fortunately, most commotio retinae will heal without any intervention and only needs to be monitored regularly until there is a complete resolution.
It is possible for commotio retinae to result in an area of permanent scarring that impacts vision long-term.
Since there is a risk of long-term vision loss, most doctors will monitor commotio retinae every few months following the onset of the trauma until it is resolved or stable.