The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye. It converts visual images into nerve impulses in the brain that allow us to see. When the retina is pulled or falls away from its position, it is called a detached retina.
A detached retina may be caused by: Eye trauma—damage from blunt or penetrating injuries to the eyeFluid getting into the sub-retinal space through a retinal break, or due to local infection or inflammation
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Factors that may increase your chance of retinal detachment include: Increased agePrevious retinal detachmentFamily members with retinal detachment
nearsightednessHoles or tears in the retinaTraumaCataract surgery
and other types of eye surgery
Scar tissue in the eye, especially if it contractsTumors in the eyePremature birth
Certain other eye and medical disorders
involving inflammation, infection or vascular disorders such as:
high blood pressureInflammatory and autoimmune diseasesBlood vessel diseases
Retinal detachment is painless. However, if it is not treated quickly, a detached retina can cause permanent, partial, or total vision loss. If you have any of these symptoms, contact an eye doctor right away: Sudden appearance or increase in the number of floaters, which are shapes that float in the eye and are seen in the field of visionBrief flashes of light in the eyeLoss of the eye’s central or peripheral field of visionA curtain appears to fall over part of the visual fieldSudden changes or blurring of vision
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. An eye exam will be done with your eyes dilated. A special instrument called a slit-lamp will be used.
The eye can be examined with an ultrasound.
Treatments may include:
Cryotherapy or cryoretinopexy—A freezing probe is used to seal the retina back into its normal position.Diathermy—Heat is used to seal the retina back into its normal position.Laser retinopexy—A laser is used to make tiny burns around the area of detachment. This seals down the surrounding retina, often preventing further detachment.Pneumatic retinopexy—A special type of gas bubble is injected into the eye. The gas bubble pushes the retina back into place.
All of these procedures are often combined with other procedures or surgeries.
Vitrectomy—the surgical removal of vitreous
that is pulling on the retina and causing detachmentScleral buckle—the surgical placement of a flexible band around the eye
To help reduce your chance of retinal detachment:
Always wear protective eyewear or goggles when participating in:
Contact sportsActivities that involve flying objectsAny other potentially dangerous activity where the eye can get injuredHave regular eye exams at least once a year if you are at risk. Depending on your age and risk factors, you may need to see the eye doctor more often.
Contact an eye doctor immediately if you have:
An eye injuryAny symptoms of retinal detachment, such as flashing lights, floating objects, loss of part of your peripheral vision, or any other change in vision
Facts about retinal detachment. National Eye Institute (NEI) website. Available at:
Updated October 2009. Accessed November 4, 2015.
What is a torn or detached retina? American Academy of Ophthalmology's Eye Smart website. Available at:
http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/detached-torn-retina/index.cfm. Accessed November 4, 2015.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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