What Is a Detached Retina?

Detached Retina

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.

Who's at Risk?

You're more likely to get one if you:
  • Are severely nearsighted
  • Have had an eye injury or cataract surgery
  • Have a family history of retinal detachment

What Are the Symptoms?

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.

Detached Retina

What is a Retinal Tear?

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.

How Is It Diagnosed?

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.

Detached Retina

How Is It Diagnosed?

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-like substance between your lens and retina. It rises and presses against 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.