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What Is Macular Hole?
The macula is the central portion of the retina that is responsible for our straight-ahead or focused vision; a macular hole is a full-thickness tissue defect that produces a gray or black spot in this area. Although a macular hole may gradually enlarge, the surrounding (peripheral) vision is maintained and therefore vision is almost never completely lost. Most macular holes develop as a result of tractional forces exerted by the vitreous gel on the delicate macular tissue. Unlike tears in the peripheral retina, a macular hole does not typically lead to retinal detachment.
Could Macular Hole Happen to Both Eyes?
Since the risk of a macular hole developing in the other eye may be as high as 10 or 15%, an examination and periodic monitoring are recommended. Simply using an eye for visual tasks will not cause it to develop this problem.
What Kind of Treatment is Available for Macular Hole?
For select patients who have a small macular hole, an in-office injection of a medication called ocriplasmin (Jetrea) into the vitreous gel may be a treatment option. However, for many patients, vitrectomy surgery is required. A vitrectomy is an outpatient surgery usually performed under local anesthesia that consists of removing the vitreous gel that pulled the hole open. In order to seal the hole closed, your doctor will replace the gel with a temporary gas bubble at the time of surgery. This bubble will severely limit the vision in the operated eye for a period of a few weeks, depending upon the type of gas bubble used. The body eventually absorbs this gas bubble and replaces it with natural eye fluids.
Surgery is highly effective in achieving closure of a macular hole, though certain features including size and how long it has been present will influence the success rate. Occasionally, a hole either doesn’t close or reopens; in such cases additional surgery may be effective. Surgical success may be enhanced if you can position in a face down manner immediately after the operation for a few days, though with our current techniques there is a trend towards reducing or eliminating the need for such positioning. We can provide you with some useful tips and resources for maintaining this positioning as comfortably as possible if it is recommended.
The amount of vision that can be recovered with successful closure of a macular hole is difficult to predict. Most people do attain some degree of noticeable visual improvement, but the improvement is usually gradual (weeks to months). It is relatively common to have cataract development or progression months after surgery. Patients who elect to have surgery for a macular hole should be aware that cataract surgery may be indicated at some point in the future. Complications of macular hole surgery such as retinal detachment, infection, hemorrhage, and others are very infrequent, although when they occur, they can affect the vision and sometimes additional surgery may be needed. Your surgeon will review the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the treatment options with you and make tailored recommendations based on the unique findings of your eye, including whether any postoperative face-down positioning is recommended.