What is Retinal Detachment?

Retinal detachment is the separation of the retina from its supporting layers. Central vision can be severely affected if the macula, the part of the retina responsible for fine vision, becomes detached.

What Causes Retinal Detachment?

  • Most retinal detachments are due to a tear or hole in the retina. Eye fluids may leak through this opening, causing the retina to separate from the underlying tissues like a bubble under wallpaper. This is most often caused by a condition called posterior vitreous detachment. However, it may also be caused by trauma or very bad near-sightedness. A family history of retinal detachment also increases risk.
  • Another type of retinal detachment is called tractional detachment. This is seen in people who have uncontrolled diabetes, previous retinal surgery, or chronic inflammation.

Symptoms of Retinal Detachment

  • Bright flashes of light, especially in peripheral vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Floaters in the eye
  • Shadow or blindness in a part of the visual field of one eye

Treatment of Retinal Detachment

Most people with a retinal detachment will need surgery. Surgery may be done immediately or after a short period of time.

The type of surgery and where it is performed depends on the severity of the detachment:

  1. Tractional retinal detachments may be watched for a while before surgery.
  2. In the doctor’s office, lasers may be used to seal tears or holes in the retina before a detachment occurs.
  3. For a small retinal detachment, the doctor may place a gas bubble in the eye called pneumatic retinopexy. This procedure helps the retina float back into place; then the hole is sealed with a laser.
  4. More severe detachments may require surgery in a hospital operating room. Such procedures include: scleral buckle to gently push the eye wall up against the retina, and vitrectomy to remove gel or scar tissue pulling on the retina.