Detached Retina/ Torn Retina

What is the retina?
The retina is a nerve layer at the back of your eye that senses light and sends images to your brain.

An eye is like a camera. The lens in the front of the eye focuses light onto the retina. You can think of the retina as the film that lines the back of a camera.

What is a retinal detachment?
A retinal detachment occurs when the retina is pulled away from its normal position. The retina does not work when it is detached. Vision is blurred, just as a photographic image would be blurry if the film were lose inside the camera.

A retinal detachment is a very serious problem that almost always causes blindness unless it is treated.

What causes retinal detachment?
A clear gel called vitreous (vit-ree-us) fills the middle of the eye. As we get older, the vitreous may pull away from its attachment to the retina at the back of the eye.

Usually the vitreous separates from the retina without causing problems. But sometimes the vitreous pulls hard enough to tear the retina in one or more places. Fluid may pass through the retinal tear, lifting the retina off the back of the eye, much as wallpaper can peel off a wall.

Signs of retinal tear or detachment include flashes and floaters, a group or web of floaters, wavy or watery vision, a sense that there is a veil or curtain obstructing vision, or a sudden drop in vision quality. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Early treatment is essential to preserve your vision.

The following conditions increase the chance of having a retinal detachment:

  • nearsightedness
  • previous cataract surgery
  • glaucoma
  • severe injury
  • previous retinal detachment in your other eye
  • family history of retinal detachment
  • weak areas in your retina that can be seen by your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.)

What treatment is needed?
Most retinal tears need to be treated with laser surgery or cryotherapy (freezing), which seals the retina to the back wall of the eye. These treatments cause little or no discomfort and may be performed in your ophthalmologist’s office. Treatment usually prevents retinal detachment.

Almost all patients with retinal detachments require surgery to return the retina to its proper position.