retinal detachments and flying

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I have thin fragile retinas, and an uncle and mother who have had retinal detachments. I am now 60 and in good health, but travel between UK and Spain. I had my first (of 5) detachment, in the right eye, some 15 years ago (successful laser treatment) , followed by one in left eye (successful laser and cryo treatment) 12 years ago, then another in the right (successful laser treatment, but needed glasses to correct squint) some 6 years ago. Then right eye went again some 4 years ago; laser treatment didn't work, but I then had a successful vitrectomy. This was followed by cataract surgery in both eyes - wonderfully successful. During these years I flew 2 or 3 return trips per year, mostly short but some long haul.

In April, some 6 weeks ago, I flew a 2 hour flight, and two days later I saw a detachment in the right eye. I had another - successful - vitrectomy. After two and a half weeks the gas had gone, and I was given the OK to fly back to Spain, which I did a week later. Another 2 hour flight - and three days later the right retina detached again, same eye, different location. It was a tiny hole, but lasering didn't do the trick, so I am now holding my head in the right position as vitrectomy number three does its job.

Both the last two surgeons have assured me that there is no statistical correlation between flying and detachments, but right now I don't want to get on another plane ever - which is going to make for a lot of problems. Are you aware of any relationship between flying and retinal detachments? I don't know if the pressure changes might have an effect? Or anyone researching detachments who might have suggestions?

I'd be very grateful for any ideas or advice. To date I have been treated with incredible success, but I don't know how many more times the retina can be stuck back down...

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5 Replies

  • Posted

    Whilst your post was some months ago I thought I would reply. Firstly, reading your experience has encouraged me as I have had my first and hopefully only retinal detachment but it is encouraging to know the success you have had with surgery. My surgery was two weeks ago and my sight still very blurred. I too had flown just before my RD was diagnosed and I have been told of another person with a similar experience. I will ask my consultant about this at my next appointment.
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  • Posted

    Yes it does! my mom just had a detachment after a flight and another person that I know had a permanent hearing loss after a flight, I'm pretty sure it's because of the variations of pressure in the airplane, as the eye and little organs are very delicate are also easy to get damaged specially when atmospheric pressure it's involved as it sucks or pushes inward the eyeball or any soft tissue by common sense.

    there should be more regulations about the pressure control in flights all over the world.

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  • Posted

    I have just read your mail after just having a torn and detached retina successfully repaired. I am 65 years old and have probably flown on average over 20 times a year. Whilst I do not think flying is an issue, if it was, commercial and military flight and cabin crew would have a high fall out rate, but if you have a weakness in that area then I think that it might exacerbate it.

    Gas failed in my case to fix the issue, oil was used, so the surgeon said it was OK to fly, but the downside was that the oil has to be removed after four months, together with the cataract that was caused by the operation.

    I got operated on in the nick of time because my Sister had the problem earlier this year, so I knew the symptons. She was told that flying was afactor. She fully recovered many months ago and was given the OK to fly on holiday. She came back from Hungary this week andd has gone into hospital tonight for an emergency retina operation, which the surgeon said was due to flying!

    This was not her repaired eye, but her good eye.

    My Sister in law's son had the same operation and was told not to fly for 6 months.

    My operation was six weeks ago, I am cleared to fly, have a holiday booked for Sunday, but with the news of my Sister, plus the in laws son, I am not taking any chances without a second pinuion, I am not flying!.

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  • Posted

    Is it possible that the detachments are caused due to the weight of the luguage that are carried while traveling from one location to another?

    My doctor told me to avoid lifting weight above 5 kilos if I intended to avoid retinal detachments in future. Generally, the weight of one medium size suitcase or luguage bag can exceed 10 kilos so, just wondering if that would be the issue. 

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  • Posted

    Yes I am fearful of flying also, last May my river cruise was interupted as I also had a detached retina and had to go from Budapet Hungary back to Vienna Austria - I do wonder if there is a connection with flying though?!
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