Retinal detachment describes an emergency situation when a critical layer of tissue (the retina) at the back of the eye pulls away from the layer of blood vessels that provides it with oxygen and nutrients.
Retinal detachment leaves the retinal cells deprived of oxygen. The longer retinal detachment goes untreated, the greater the risk of permanent vision loss in the affected eye.
Fortunately, retinal detachment often has clear warning signs. If you go to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) as soon as warning signs appear, early diagnosis and treatment of retinal detachment can save your vision.
Retinal detachment describes an emergency situation when a critical layer of tissue (the retina) at the back of the eye pulls away from the layer of blood vessels that provides it oxygen and ...
Retinal detachment is painless, but retinal detachment symptoms almost always appear before it occurs. Retinal detachment symptoms may include:
When to see a doctor
Retinal detachment can occur as a result of:
How retinal detachment occurs
As liquid collects underneath it, the retina can peel away from the underlying layer of blood vessels (choroid). The areas where the retina is detached lose their blood supply and stop functioning, so you lose vision.
Aging-related retinal tears that lead to retinal detachment
As the vitreous separates or peels off the retina, it may tug on the retina with enough force to create a retinal tear. Left untreated, the tear can progress to a retinal detachment.
PVD can cause visual symptoms. You may see flashes of sparkling lights (photopsia) when your eyes are closed or when you're in a darkened room. New or different floaters may appear in your field of vision.
Anatomy of the eye
Your eye is a complex and compact structure measuring about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. It receives millions of pieces of information about the outside world, which are quickly processed by ...
The following factors increase your risk of retinal detachment:
Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with your eye doctor if you have any changes in your vision that worry you. If you're thought to have a retinal tear or retinal detachment, you'll likely be referred to a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating eye diseases (ophthalmologist). You may be referred to an ophthalmologist who is also a retinal specialist.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For retinal detachment, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to diagnose retinal detachment include:
Treatments and drugs
Surgery is used to repair a retinal tear, hole or detachment. Your ophthalmologist can tell you about the various risks and benefits of your treatment options. Together you can determine what treatment is best for you.
Surgery for retinal tears
After your procedure you'll need to remain relatively still for the next two weeks or so, as the bonds created by your procedure strengthen.
Surgery for retinal detachment
Surgery isn't always successful in reattaching the retina. Also, a reattached retina doesn't guarantee normal vision. How well you see after surgery depends in part on whether the central part of the retina (macula) was affected by the detachment before surgery, and if it was, for how long. Your vision may take many months to improve after repair of a retinal detachment. Some people don't recover any lost vision.
Coping and support
Unless you undergo prompt surgery, retinal detachment will cause you to lose vision in the portion of your field of vision that corresponds to the detached part of the retina. Losing part of your vision can greatly change your lifestyle — affecting your ability to drive, read and do many other things you're accustomed to doing. Yet there are ways to cope with impaired vision:
There's no way to prevent retinal detachment. However, being aware of the warning signs of a detached retina — floaters, bright flashes of light, or a shadow or curtain that seems to fall across your visual field — could help save your vision. If you notice any of the warning signs of retinal detachment, particularly if you're over age 40, you or a family member has had a detached retina, or you're extremely nearsighted, contact your ophthalmologist immediately.
Last Updated: 2010-11-10
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