• Patient who sufferered retinal detachment

Retinal Specialist at Ingalls an Answer to Indiana Woman’s Prayers

Twice during the spring of 2014, Cheryl Martin of Schererville, Ind., suffered retinal detachments in her right eye.

“There was no rhyme or reason for it,” the 61-year-old wife, mother and grandmother of three explained. Other than the telltale symptoms – the sudden appearance of “floaters” in her field of vision – Cheryl was at a loss for why it happened.

Retinal detachment occurs when the thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye pulls away from its normal position, separating the retinal cells from the layer of blood vessels that provide oxygen and nourishment to the eye. It is considered a medical emergency, and left untreated, can lead to permanent vision loss in the affected eye.

“I was scared to death,” she admits. Cheryl was referred to a specialist near her home and underwent surgeries to reattach the retina on two separate occasions. But her vision problems persisted for months. Unknown to Cheryl, the procedures left her with a “wrinkled retina” caused by scarring from her previous surgeries. Though the original problem had been fixed, the veteran church secretary was left with compromised vision in her right eye, and her doctor couldn’t give her an explanation why.

Determined to find a fix, Cheryl arranged for a second opinion at the Cleveland Clinic. Before her trip, though, a church friend stopped by to see her at work. “She asked how my eye was doing,” Cheryl recalls. “Then she told me about her husband. He had scar tissue from previous retina surgeries, and they were going to see a specialist who could fix it.”

The specialist was retinal vascular surgeon Vivek Chaturvedi, M.D., at the Irwin Retina Center at Ingalls. “It was like God had shown me a path,” she says. “He connected me to this woman so that I could find Dr. Chaturvedi too. I had the exact same diagnosis as her husband.” Cheryl made an appointment to see Dr. Chaturvedi, and he told her about a surgical procedure that could help.

“A wrinkle in the retina is another name for an epiretinal membrane,” Dr. Chaturvedi explains. “It develops from the growth of scar tissue across the surface of the retina. When the scar tissue contracts, it causes the retina to ‘wrinkle,’ leading to distorted or blurred vision.”

Restoring Vision, Relieving Pressure

Much of the eye’s interior is filled with vitreous, a gel-like substance that helps the eye maintain a round shape. With aging, the vitreous slowly shrinks and pulls away from the retinal surface. Most of the time, it’s harmless.

“But sometimes the vitreous can damage the retina when it pulls away,” he explains. When this happens, the retina begins a healing process to the damaged area and forms scar tissue on the retina surface. When it shrinks, it causes the retina to wrinkle, or pucker. Severe cases may require a surgical procedure called vitrectomy.

During a vitrectomy, the surgeon suctions out the vitreous gel. After removing the gel, the surgeon may treat the retina with a laser; peel fibrous or scar tissue from the retina (as in Cheryl’s case); flatten areas where the retina had become detached; or repair tears or holes in the retina. At the end of the surgery, silicone oil or a gas is injected into the eye to replace the vitreous gel and restore normal pressure in the eye. Healing and vision recovery can take several months to a year.

Cheryl had the procedure at Ingalls the Monday before Thanksgiving last year. During surgery, Dr. Chaturvedi discovered a slight retinal tear and repaired that at the same time.

Following a brief recovery at home, Cheryl was back to work the following week. She uses assistive devices to help her see, including a large-screen computer and a lighted desk-top magnifier. She drives too. But most importantly, her vision is improving.

“Instead of spinning my wheels like I had been doing, I’m moving forward now,” Cheryl adds. “Dr. Chaturvedi truly was the answer to my prayers.”

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