Are you at risk for retinal detachment?

Retinal Detachment: Are You at Risk?

Are you at risk for retinal detachment?

We explored the critical role the retina plays in maintaining healthy vision in our previous blog post and offered lifestyle adjustments that promote retinal health for you and your family.

Here’s a brief recap: eat lots of orange veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, peaches) in addition to those leafy greens (kale, broccoli, spinach), protect your eyes from UV rays every day, and exercise regularly.

While these changes can support overall retinal health, there are still serious potential problems that can impact the retina and therefore your vision. Retinal detachment is one of them.

What is a Retinal Detachment?

The retina is a delicate layer of tissue in the back of the eye that communicates with the optic nerve to provide visual signals to the brain.

When the retina becomes detached from the wall of the eye, it is separated from its normal position and can suffer from a loss of blood flow leading to tissue death.

This condition can severely and permanently impact vision if it isn’t detected and repaired—fast!

To better understand the condition, picture retinal detachment as similar to wallpaper coming unglued and peeling from a wall. It can start out with just a small piece detaching, which might cause some small pieces of wallpaper to flutter to the floor. In the eye, when the retina becomes detached, a person might notice the sudden onset of more “floaters” in their field of vision.

If the retinal detachment worsens or is more severe to begin with, a person may see flashing lights, dark shadows or experience a “curtain effect” of the eye where the central vision is darkened. This is because the retina is detached from its normal position and isn’t able to process and receive light correctly to send visual signals to the brain.

Symptoms of a Retinal Detachment

–      Noticeable increase in the number of “floaters”

–      Flashing lights

–      Shadow or curtain effect on vision

The severity of the symptoms often parallels the severity of the retinal detachment.

These symptoms are critical warning signs and should be heeded: If you experience a sudden change to your vision, a noticeable increase in floaters, flashing lights or a sharp darkening of your vision, call your optometrist immediately to have the condition diagnosed. Time is critical when it comes to preserving vision during a retinal detachment, because the condition can lead to retinal tissue death and irreversible blindness.

Risk factors for Retinal Detachment

  • Lattice degeneration: a thinning of peripheral retina tissue
  • Extreme near-sightedness, in which the eye is often elongated and more prone to retinal detachment
  • Aging: retinal detachments are more common after age 40
  • Family history of retinal tears or retinal detachment
  • Previous retinal detachment
  • Eye surgeries, including cataract surgery
  • Trauma 

Treatment for Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment is a medical emergency that warrants immediate action for diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment involves re-attaching the retina to the back wall of the eye so that it can regain its normal position and blood supply. If there is a hole or tear involved, that must be repaired. Because there are several causes of retinal detachments, there are multiple ways to treat them, both surgically and with lasers, depending on the severity and cause of the condition.

A retinal specialist will determine which approach is ideal for each case. The good news is that retinal detachment repair is successful in approximately 9 10 patients.

Whether the patient will recover the same clarity of vision that he or she enjoyed prior to the retinal detachment depends on each individual’s health and other risk factors. Generally speaking, most patients regain vision similar to what they enjoyed pre-surgically, though there is always a possibility for some degree of permanent loss of vision.

If left untreated, retinal detachment will almost always result in permanent blindness.

If you experience significant changes to your vision or see flashing or increased floaters and suspect a retinal detachment, call our office immediately so we can guide you about where to receive the best possible care as fast as it can possibly be given.


Are You at Risk for PVD or Retinal Detachment?

Are you at risk for retinal detachment?

The next morning the flashes of light were gone, but they were replaced by long, squiggly lines that resembled black worms floating across my right eye. After Googling my symptoms, I panicked, convinced that I was going blind from retinal detachment and immediately called my optometrist for an emergency appointment.

Her diagnosis: posterior vitreous detachment (or PVD), a natural, non-sight threatening eye condition that occurs when the vitreous (the clear, gel- substance that makes up the eyeball) pulls away from the retina.

PVD is a common occurrence in middle-aged adults, especially those near the age of 60. The reason it happens later in life is due to the vitreous losing its firm, gel- shape as it becomes more liquid with age. This causes it to separate from the retina at the back of the eye and move closer toward the center.

Early symptoms include flashes of light (usually peripheral) and floaters — the tiny black specks that are a result of age-related changes in the eye. Floaters occur when tiny fibers in the vitreous stick together and cast a shadow over the retina.

They are normal and of little concern, unless there is a sudden increase in spots or if a dark curtain appears on either side of the eye, blocking the peripheral vision.

On its own, PVD does not cause permanent loss of vision or pain, and the symptoms usually subside after three months. Even so, a professional diagnosis with a dilated eye exam is recommended to confirm that the retina has not been compromised.

When PVD occurs, the retina (the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye) reacts to a vitreous detachment by delivering small electrical signals to the brain, causing flashes of light to appear in the peripheral vision.

In my case, hemorrhaging also had occurred around the area of the vitreous humor (the gel portion of the eye) making it difficult to view the condition of the retina.

The floating black lines in my vision were actually the result of blood leaking into the vitreous.

My optometrist urged me to see a retina specialist for an extensive exam to rule out the possibility of retinal tears or detachment.

Unfortunately, the specialist found that my vitreous had tugged on the retinal nerve layer hard enough to cause several rips in the tissue and would need immediate care before the retina could separate from the back of the eye cavity (known as retinal detachment, which can affect vision permanently). He assured me that since my retinal tears were diagnosed early, if I sought proper treatment my prognosis for healthy eyesight was good.

The two most common procedures used for retinal tears are laser photocoagulation and cryopexy (a freeze-burn procedure), both of which are safe and effective.

Laser therapy involves sealing the leaking blood vessels in the retina by making small burns around the affected area to create a scar.

This, in turn, holds the tissue in place and keeps it from further leakage, similar to cauterizing a bleeding wound.

Cryopexy is the process of using a cold probe, known as a cryoprobe, to stimulate fusion of the tissue surrounding the retinal tear.

My retina specialist felt that laser therapy was the best option for my condition, explaining that it needed prompt attention to avoid retinal detachment and that the procedure would take roughly 15 to 20 minutes in the office.

His decision did not allow any hesitation on my part, which was probably a good thing since I'm the type of person who would have gone home and Googled every first-person account of laser surgery and psyched myself out.

As promised, the surgery was quick with minimal discomfort after the topical anesthetic drops were applied to the eye. I had to remain perfectly still during the procedure, which felt Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were battling it out with laser wands in my eye.

Once it was over, I was told that the floaters would shrink over time and to refrain from strenuous activity for the next two weeks while the eye recovered.

I asked my specialist what caused my condition since I hadn't experienced head trauma.

He explained that PVD was very common, especially in people over the age of 60 and added that since it had already occurred in one of my eyes, there was a higher chance of it developing in the opposite eye within the year.

There are several other risk factors beyond advanced aging and head trauma for retinal tears and detachment:

  • Thinning of the retina
  • Myopia (nearsightedness)
  • Cataract surgery or any recent interocular surgery
  • A family history of retinal tears or detachment

Wrinkles and fatigue I expected with age, but never once did I consider a problem with my eyes other than needing prescription readers for small print. My condition was truly an “eye-opener” and a reminder to anyone over 60 of the importance of having your eyes checked regularly by an optometrist.

From now on if I experience floaters or flashing lights, I won't hesitate to call my specialist for an exam. I plan on living my life to the fullest and seeing it all with 20/20 vision.

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Retinal Tears & Detachments

Are you at risk for retinal detachment?

The retina is a thin layer of light-sensitive nerve fibers and cells that covers the inside of the back of the eyeball. In order for you to see, light must pass through the lens of the eye and focus on the retina. The retina acts a camera. It takes a “picture” and transmits the image through the optic nerve to the brain.

Vitreous fluid, the gel- material that fills the eyeball, is attached to the retina around the back of the eye. If the vitreous changes shape, it may pull away a piece of the retina with it, leaving a tear. Once there is a tear, vitreous fluid can seep between the retina and the back wall of the eye, causing the retina to pull away or detach.

As you age, the vitreous fluid shrinks. This is a normal process that usually does not cause retinal damage. However, inflammation or myopia (nearsightedness) may cause the vitreous to pull away and can lead to a detached retina. You are at increased risk if:

  • You have had eye surgery
  • You have suffered an eye injury
  • Your family has a history of retinal problems
  • You have diabetes

If part of the retina detaches, it will not function properly. It may produce a blind spot, blurred vision or shadowy lines. Some have described effect as a curtain closing over the eye. Other symptoms may include suddenly seeing many floaters (spots) or flashes of light.

While floaters are a natural part of aging and are not always a sign of a detached their sudden onset, number and frequency indicate a need to check retinal detachment. In any case, if you suspect a problem, it is important that you see an eye doctor right away.

Your doctor needs to act quickly to try to repair the damage and prevent permanent vision loss.

A detached retina cannot be seen from the outside of the eye. The only way to diagnose retinal tears is through a comprehensive eye exam. Your eye doctor will use a lighted magnification instrument to view the inside of your eye. Other diagnostic instruments include certain types of contact lenses, a slit lamp or ultrasound.

If your retina is only torn, prompt treatment may prevent detachment. Your eye surgeon will discuss the various methods of repair and suggest the best treatment the severity of the tear or detachment. There are a number of options available:

  • Laser photocoagulation is helpful in repairing small retinal tears. The laser creates small burns around the edges of the tear, which produces scars. These scars seal the borders of the tear and prevent fluids from leaking toward the retina, which helps to avoid detachment. Laser treatment can be performed on an outpatient basis. It requires no surgical incision and causes less damage to surrounding tissue.
  • Cryopexy is the use of extreme cold to cause scar formation and seal the edges of a retinal tear. It can be performed on an outpatient basis, but it requires local anesthesia to numb the eye.
  • Liquid silicone may be injected to replace the vitreous fluid to maintain the normal shape of the eye and hold the retina and eye wall in alignment.
  • To repair actual retinal detachments, fluid must be drained from under the retina to minimize the space between it and the eye wall. A silicone band may be used on the outside of the eye to push the back wall against the retina.

If diagnosed early, 85% of detached retinas can be reattached. About 40% of people with successful reattachments will have excellent vision. The remainder will have varying amounts of vision.

When the retina is reattached successfully, just how much vision is restored can depend on other factors. These include the length of time the retina was detached and whether there was any scar tissue growth. Unfortunately, not all retinas can be reattached. When this is the case, you will eventually lose sight in the affected eye.

  • Know the warning signs.
  • If you experience any of the warning signs, seek immediate eye care.
  • If you are very nearsighted, have regular, dilated eye exams.
  • If you have a family history of retinal problems, have regular, dilated eye exams.
  • Have your eye doctor examine your eye after any serious eye injury.
  • Always wear safety eyewear during sports and other hazardous activities.


Causes of Retinal Detachment

Are you at risk for retinal detachment?

There are three main causes of retinal detachment, each with its own set of risk factors. The most common type is called a “rhegmatogenous” detachment, and is caused by a tear or hole in the retina.

The retina is the thin, light-sensitive tissue that lines the back inside wall of the eye. If the retina tears, thick liquid called vitreous (which fills the back two-thirds of the hollow eyeball) can seep through the hole.

The fluid accumulates underneath the retina, causing the retina to peel away from the back of the eye.

Risk factors for rhegmatogenous retinal detachments include aging, cataract surgery, thinning of the outer retina known as lattice degeneration, a high degree of nearsightedness (also called high myopia), and head trauma. Let's look at each one of these causes in more detail:

As we age, our vitreous gradually changes from a thick, gelatin- consistency to a consistency more egg white. The vitreous is attached to the retina.

As it becomes thinner and moves around more inside the eye, it tugs on the retina and eventually tugs free of the retina. This usually occurs between 55 and 65 years of age.

If the vitreous is attached tightly enough to the retina, the separating vitreous can pull a tear in the retina, much pulling a piece of tape off a piece of paper can rip a hole in the paper.

Cataract surgery involves replacing the large, cloudy human lens inside the eye with a thinner plastic lens implant. This creates extra room inside the eye, removing some clothes from a tightly packed suitcase. As vitreous flows into the newly created space, it can tug on the retina and occasionally create a retinal tear.

Lattice degeneration is the name of a lace- thinning at the edges of the retina that can make the retina more vulnerable to tears. Nearsightedness of more than 5 diopter powers is associated with a greater risk of retinal tears, possibly because nearsighted eyes are longer than normal and the retina is stretched thinner than normal.

It may also be that high nearsightedness is associated with vitreous that is attached to the retina more tightly. A sudden blow to the head or eye, such as hitting a windshield or having an air bag deploy, can also create a tear in the retina. Head trauma is also among the most common causes of retinal detachment in children.

Other risk factors for rhegmatogenous detachments include a family history of retinal detachment and certain congenital or hereditary eye diseases.

A less common type of retinal detachment is called a “tractional” detachment. This occurs when vitreous tugs on the retina over time, gradually causing the retina to tent up off the back of the eye. Tractional detachments do not occur suddenly and are not associated with retinal tears.

One of the most common causes of tractional detachments is advanced diabetic eye disease in which vitreous grabs onto and tugs on abnormal blood vessels that are growing on the surface of the retina.

In children, the most common cause of tractional detachments is a condition called retinopathy of prematurity which can affect premature newborns who receive oxygen in the high-risk neonatal nursery.

The third, even less common type of retinal detachment is called an “exudative” detachment in which fluid leaks blood vessels within or underneath the retina. This can occur in inflammatory conditions such as uveitis and scleritis, certain collagen vascular or autoimmune diseases, tumors of the eye, and congenital diseases such as Coat's disease.

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Detached retina: Symptoms, causes, surgery, and treatment

Are you at risk for retinal detachment?

  • Symptoms
  • Causes
  • Surgery
  • Treatment
  • Diagnosis
  • Risk factors

A detached retina happens when the retina peels away or detaches from its underlying layer of support tissue at the back of the eye. The retina is a thin layer of light-sensitive nerve cells at the back of the eye. We need a healthy retina to be able to see clearly.

At first, detachment might only affect a small part of the retina, but, without treatment, the whole retina may peel off, and vision will be lost from that eye.

A detached retina, or retinal detachment, usually only occurs in one eye. It is a medical emergency.

People with severe myopia, those with diabetes, patients who have had complicated cataract surgery, and anybody who has received a blow to the eye are all more susceptible to the condition.

Share on PinterestThe retina attaches the back of they eye.

A person with a detached retina may experience a number of symptoms.

These include:

  • Photopsia, or sudden, brief flashes of light outside the central part of their vision, or peripheral vision. The flashes are more ly to occur when the eye moves.
  • A significant increase in the number of floaters, the bits of debris in the eye that make us see things floating in front of us, usually little strings of transparent bubbles or rods that follow our field of vision as our eyes turn. They may see what looks a ring of hairs or floaters on the peripheral side of the vision.
  • A heavy feeling in the eye
  • A shadow that starts to appear in the peripheral vision and gradually spreads towards the center of the field of vision
  • A sensation that a transparent curtain is coming down over the field of vision
  • Straight lines start to appear curved

It is not usually painful.

The retina is the layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye. It is light sensitive and its function is to send visual signals to the brain, through the optic nerve.

Share on PinterestEye trauma can cause a detached retina.

When we see, light goes through the optical system of the eye and hits the retina, in a nondigital camera.

When the light hits the retina, this produces an image that is translated into neural impulses and sent to the brain through the optic nerve.

In other words, an image focuses on the retina, nerve cells process the information, and they send it by electrical impulses through the optic nerve to the brain.

If the retina is damaged, this can affect a person’s ability to see.

Retinal detachment happens when this layer is pulled from its normal position. Sometimes, there are small tears in the retina. These, too, can cause the retina to become detached.

There are three types of detached retina:

Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment is a break, tear, or hole in the retina. This hole allows liquid to pass from the vitreous space into the subretinal space between the sensory retina and the retinal pigment epithelium. The pigment epithelium is the pigmented cell layer just outside the neurosensory retina.

Secondary retinal detachment is also known as exudative retinal detachment or serous retinal detachment. It happens when inflammation, vascular abnormalities, or injury cause fluid to build up under the retina. There is no hole, break, or tear.

Tractional retinal detachment is when an injury, inflammation, or neovascularization causes the fibrovascular tissue to pull the sensory retina from the retinal pigment epithelium.

Surgery will be necessary to find all the retinal breaks and seal them and to relieve present and future vitreoretinal traction, or pulling. Without surgery, there is a high risk of total vision loss.

Options for surgery include:

Share on PinterestIf eye tests show that retinal detachment, treatment options will be considered.

  • Laser surgery, or photocoagulation: A laser beam is directed through a contact lens or ophthalmoscope. The laser burns around the retinal tear, resulting in scarring tissue that then fuses the tissue back together.
  • Cryotherapy: Cryosurgery, cryopexy, or freezing, involves applying extreme cold to destroy abnormal or diseased tissue. The procedure produces a delicate scar that helps connect the retina to the wall of the eye.
  • Scleral buckling: In the area where the retina has detached, very thin bands of silicone rubber or sponge are sewn onto the sclera, the outside white of the eye. The tissue around the area may be frozen or lasers may be used to scar the tissue.
  • Vitrectomy: The vitreous gel is removed from the eye and a gas bubble or silicon oil bubble is used to hold the retina in place. The wound is stitched. Silicon oil needs to be removed 2 to 8 months after the procedure.
  • Pneumatic retinopexy: This can be used if the detachment is uncomplicated. The surgeon freezes the tear area, using cryopexy, before injecting a bubble into the vitreous cavity of the eye. This pushes the retina back against the tear and the detached area, preventing further flow of fluid behind the retina. After some days, the pressure eventually makes the retina reattach itself to the wall of the back of the eye.

A person who has a gas bubble placed in the eye may be advised to hold the head in a particular way for some time, and they will not be allowed to fly. If an oil bubble is used, flying is allowed.

Researchers have been looking into the use of silicone oil to treat proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), a complication of retinal detachment surgery that can lead to further detachment of the retina.

The National Eye Institute estimate that around 90 percent of treatments for retinal detachment are successful, although some people will need further treatment.

Sometimes, it is not possible to reattach the retina, and the person’s vision will continue to deteriorate.

The patient’s vision should return a few weeks after treatment. If the macula is involved in the detachment, the person’s sight may never be as clear as it was before. The macula is the part of the eye that enables us to see what is straight in front of us.

The cost of surgery for retinal detachment depends on the type of procedure. Research published in 2014 suggests that “treatment and prevention of RD are extremely cost effective compared with other treatment of other retinal disease, regardless of treatment modality.”

The study, published in the journal Ophthalomology, balanced the cost of treatment against the benefits of good eyesight and quality of life.

There is a small risk of complications after surgery. These include allergies to medications, bleeding in the eye, double vision, cataracts, glaucoma, and eye infection.

Attending regular eyesight tests can help to reduce the risk of retinal detachment, as eye conditions such as this can sometimes be detected in the early stages.

Treatment options for a detached retina are all kinds of surgery, as described above.

If a doctor suspects retinal detachment, they will normally refer the patient to an eye specialist, or ophthalmologist, for a precise diagnosis.

The ophthalmologist will examine they eye after dilating, or widening, the pupils with eye drops. An ultrasound may give more detail.

Factors that may increase the risk of developing retinal detachment include:

  • genetics, for example, if a close family relative has had retinal detachment
  • middle and older age
  • extreme nearsightedness
  • previous cataract surgery, especially if it was complicated
  • previous retinal detachment
  • eye conditions, such as uveitis, degenerative myopia, lattice degeneration, and retinoschisis
  • trauma, for example, a blow to the eye
  • diabetes, especially if the diabetes is poorly controlled

Anyone with these risk factors should be aware of the possibility of a detached retina.


Retinal Detachment

Are you at risk for retinal detachment?

Retinal detachment is an eye problem that happens when your retina (a light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye) is pulled away from its normal position at the back of your eye.

If only a small part of your retina has detached, you may not have any symptoms.

But if more of your retina is detached, you may not be able to see as clearly as normal, and you may notice other sudden symptoms, including:

  • A lot of new gray or black specks floating in your field of vision (floaters) 
  • Flashes of light in one eye or both eyes
  • A dark shadow or “curtain” on the sides or in the middle of your field of vision

Retinal detachment can be a medical emergency. If you have symptoms of a detached retina, it’s important to go to your eye doctor or the emergency room right away.

The symptoms of retinal detachment often come on quickly. If the retinal detachment isn’t treated right away, more of the retina can detach — which increases the risk of permanent vision loss or blindness.

Anyone can have a retinal detachment, but some people are at higher risk. You are at higher risk if:

  • You or a family member has had a retinal detachment before
  • You’ve had a serious eye injury
  • You’ve had eye surgery, surgery to treat cataracts

Some other problems with your eyes may also put you at higher risk, including:

  • Diabetic retinopathy (a condition in people with diabetes that affects blood vessels in the retina)
  • Extreme nearsightedness (myopia), especially degenerative myopia
  • Posterior vitreous detachment (when the gel- fluid in the center of the eye pulls away from the retina)
  • Certain other eye diseases, including retinoschisis or lattice degeneration

If you’re concerned about your risk for retinal detachment, talk with your eye doctor.

There are many causes of retinal detachment, but the most common causes are aging or an eye injury.

There are 3 types of retinal detachment: rhematogenous, tractional, and exudative. Each type happens because of a different problem that causes your retina to move away from the back of your eye.

There’s no way to prevent retinal detachment — but you can lower your risk by wearing safety goggles or other protective eye gear when doing risky activities playing sports.

If you experience any symptoms of retinal detachment, go to your eye doctor or the emergency room right away. Early treatment can help prevent permanent vision loss.

It’s also important to get comprehensive dilated eye exams regularly. A dilated eye exam can help your eye doctor find a small retinal tear or detachment early, before it starts to affect your vision.

Retinal detachment can happen to anyone

If you have an eye injury or trauma ( something hitting your eye), it’s important to see an eye doctor to check for early signs of retinal detachment

Seeing a few small specks in your vision (floaters) is normal — but if you suddenly see a lot more floaters than usual, it’s important to get your eyes checked right away

If you see any warning signs of a retinal detachment, your eye doctor can check your eyes with a dilated eye exam. The exam is simple and painless — your doctor will give you some eye drops to dilate (widen) your pupil and then look at your retina at the back of your eye.

If your eye doctor still needs more information after a dilated eye exam, you may get an ultrasound or an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan of your eye. Both of these tests are painless and can help your eye doctor see the exact position of your retina.

Depending on how much of your retina is detached and what type of retinal detachment you have, your eye doctor may recommend laser surgery, freezing treatment, or other types of surgery to fix any tears or breaks in your retina and reattach your retina to the back of your eye. Sometimes, your eye doctor will use more than one of these treatments at the same time.

Treatment for retinal detachment works well, especially if the detachment is caught early. In some cases, you may need a second treatment or surgery if your retina detaches again — but treatment is ultimately successful for about 9 10 people.

Last updated: June 26, 2019


Retinal Detachment, Facts About

Are you at risk for retinal detachment?

Retinal detachment is a condition in which a layer of tissue called the retina gets lifted or pulled away from its normal position in the eye. The retina acts as a light-sensitive wallpaper in the eye, lining the inside of the eye wall and sending visual signals to the brain.

If a person with retinal detachment is not treated right away, he or she can have permanent vision loss.

Sometimes small areas of the retina get torn. These are called retinal tears or retinal breaks. These can lead to retinal detachment.

What are the symptoms of retinal detachment?

Symptoms of retinal detachment include:

  • An increase in floaters – Floaters look little “cobwebs” or specks that float about in the field of vision. This increase can happen all of a sudden or slowly over time.
  • Seeing flashes of light
  • Seeing a curtain that causes a loss of a field of vision. This curtain might originate from any direction.

A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know has these symptoms, see an eye doctor immediately.

What are the different types of retinal detachment?

There are three types of retinal detachment. They include:

  • Rhegmatogenous – In this type, a tear or break allows fluid to get under the retina and separate it from the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The RPE is a layer of cells that nourishes the retina. These types of retinal detachments are the most common. They are also the most dangerous type, since they progress rapidly.
  • Tractional – In this type, scar tissue on the retina's surface shrinks and causes it to separate from the RPE. This type of detachment occurs in people with diabetes. It does not progress as rapidly.
  • Exudative – In this type, fluid leaks into the area underneath the retina, but there are no tears or breaks in the retina. This type is usually caused by retinal diseases, including inflammatory disorders and injury or trauma to the eye.

Who is at risk for retinal detachment?

Retinal detachment is more common in people over age 40. But it can happen at any age. It affects men more than women, and Whites more than African Americans.

Other people at risk for retinal detachment include those who:

  • Are extremely nearsighted
  • Have had a retinal detachment in the other eye
  • Have a family history of retinal detachment
  • Have had cataract surgery
  • Have other eye diseases or disorders, such as retinoschisis, uveitis, degenerative myopia, or lattice degeneration
  • Have had an eye injury

How is retinal detachment treated?

There are many treatment options for retinal detachment.

Some of these treatments help with small holes and tears. These can be performed in the eye doctor's office, and include:

  • Laser surgery – Laser surgery can treat small holes and tears. Tiny burns are made around the hole to “weld” the retina back into place. It is performed in the eye doctor's office.
  • Cryopexy – This is a freeze treatment that can also help with small holes and tears. Cryopexy freezes the area around the hole and helps reattach the retina. This procedure is performed in the eye doctor's office.
  • Gas injection – For this treatment, the eye doctor injects a gas bubble into the eye. The doctor might do this in addition to the laser or cryopexy treatment. The gas bubble can help hold the retina against the eye wall while the areas treated with laser or cryopexy reattach at full strength, which can take up to a week.

Most cases of retinal detachment are treated with surgery. This might include:

  • Scleral buckle – This is a tiny synthetic band that the doctor attaches to the outside of the eyeball. The band gently pushes the wall of the eye in toward the center of the eye. This places the eye wall very close to the detached retina. Natural pumps in the eye then help reattach the retina to the wall.
  • Vitrectomy – A vitrectomy is a surgery to replace the vitreous, a gel- substance that fills the center of the eye and helps the eye maintain a round shape. During a vitrectomy, the doctor makes a tiny incision in the white of the eye. Next, he or she uses a small instrument to remove the vitreous. In most cases, the doctor injects gas to replace the vitreous. The gas pushes the retina back against the wall of the eye and reattaches it. As it heals, the eye makes fluid that slowly replaces the gas and fills the eye.

With both of these surgeries, either laser or cryopexy are used to “weld” the retina back in place.

With modern therapy, most people can be successfully treated for retinal detachment, but doctors cannot always predict how vision will turn out. The visual outcome might not be known for up to several months after surgery.

Sometimes a second treatment is needed. Unfortunately, sometimes vision cannot be restored even with multiple treatments. In many cases, it depends on how severe the retinal detachment was, and how much time passed before the person was treated.

Results are best if the retinal detachment is treated as soon as possible. That is why it is important to see an eye doctor immediately if you have any symptoms of a retinal detachment.

This information was adapted from information provided by the National Eye Institute (NEI) to help patients and their families in searching for general information about retinal detachment. You should always talk with one of our medical experts who has examined the patient's eyes and is familiar with his or her medical history to answer specific questions.


Your Eyes and Retinal Detachment

Are you at risk for retinal detachment?

  • What Is a Detached Retina?
  • Types of Retinal Detachment
  • Do I Need Surgery?

This serious eye condition happens when your retina — a layer of tissue at the back of your eye that processes light — pulls away from the tissue around it. Since the retina can't work properly when this happens, you could have permanent vision loss if you don’t get it treated right away.

You're more ly to get one if you:

A detached retina doesn't hurt. It can happen with no warning at all. But you might notice:

  • Flashes of light
  • Seeing lots of new “floaters” (small flecks or threads)
  • Darkening of your peripheral (side) vision

If you have any of those symptoms, contact your eye doctor immediately.

Sometimes it comes before full detachment. It usually has the same symptoms. If your retina gets torn, the fluid inside your eye can leak underneath and separate the retina from its underlying tissue. That's retinal detachment.

Go to the eye doctor. She can fix it in the office with a simple laser procedure. If you don’t and it detaches fully, you'll need more serious surgery to repair it.

As part of an eye exam. The doctor will give you eye drops that widen your pupil (she'll call this dilating your eyes). She'll use a special tool to look into it and see if your retina is detached.

Early diagnosis is key to preventing vision loss from a detached retina.

Your doctor has several options:

Laser (thermal) or freezing (cryopexy). Both methods can repair a tear if it is diagnosed early enough. The procedures are often done in the doctor's office.

Pneumatic retinopexy. This works well for a tear that’s small and easy to close. The doctor injects a tiny gas bubble into the vitreous, a clear, gel- substance between your lens and retina. It rises and presses against the upper part of the retina, closing the tear. She can use a laser or cryopexy to seal the tear.

Scleral buckle. In this surgical procedure, the doctor sews a silicone band (buckle) around the white of your eye (she'll call it the sclera). This pushes it toward the tear until it heals. This band is invisible and is permanently attached. Laser or cryo treatment can seal the tear.

Vitrectomy. This surgery is used to repair large tears. The doctor removes the vitreous and replaces it with a saline solution. Depending on the size of the tear, she might use various combinations of vitrectomy, buckle, laser, and gas bubble to repair your retina.

Sometimes. Get to your eye doctor immediately if you develop new floaters, see flashing lights, or notice any other changes in your vision. Early is always better than late when it comes to treating retinal tears, detachments, and other serious issues.

An eye exam can also flag early changes in your eyes that you may not have noticed. Treating those could prevent problems down the road.

Get your eyes checked once a year, or more often if you have conditions diabetes that make you more ly to have eye disease. Regular eye exams are also important if you’re very nearsighted. That makes detachment more ly.

If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, keep those conditions under control. That will help keep the blood vessels in your retina healthy.

Not sure how often you should get your eyes checked? Ask your eye doctor.

Wear eye protection if you need it. Try sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses if you play racquetball or other sports that could harm your eyes. You may also need special glasses if you work with machines, chemicals, or tools for your job or at home.


National Eye Institute: “Finding the Right Eye Protection” and “What Kind of Eyewear Can I Use to Protect My Eyes.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology, “Retinal Detachment: What Is a Torn or Detached Retina?”

American Society of Retina Specialists: “Retinal Disease/Health Series,” “Retinal Tears.”

Harvard Health Publications: “What you can do about floaters and flashes in the eye.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “What are Dilating Eyedrops?” “What to Expect When Your Eyes Are Dilated.”

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