A detached retina occurs when the retina is pulled or falls away from its normal position. 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.
Many factors can cause retinal detachment. These include:
Eye trauma—damage from blunt or penetrating injuries to the eye, which may be caused by:
Sports-related activitiesBlunt traumaFlying objectsCar accidents
—This causes an unusually elongated eyeball, which can lead to increased risk for retinal detachment.
—This and many other types of eye surgery can increase the risk of retinal detachment.
Scar tissue in the eye, especially if it contractsTumors in the eyeCertain other eye and medical disorders
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A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for retinal detachment include:
Increasing age—With age, changes occur in the eye that can lead to an increased risk of retinal detachment.Previous retinal detachment in the same or other eyeSevere nearsightednessFamily members with retinal detachmentHoles or tears in the retinaTrauma
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 immediately:
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, and perform a thorough eye exam. Tests may include:
Eye exam—The pupil is dilated with eye drops, and the inside of the eye is examined with a lighted instrument called an ophthalmoscope.Ultrasound—The doctor uses sound waves to examine the eye.
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 fluid that is pulling on the retina and causing detachmentScleral buckle—the surgical placement of a flexible band around the eye
If you are diagnosed with a detached retina, follow your doctor's
To help prevent retinal detachment, do the following:
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
The Merck Manual of Medical Information
. Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.
Last reviewed [Under Medical Review] by Eric L. Berman, 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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