Retinal detachment is a separation of the light-sensitive membrane (retina) in the back of the eye from its supporting layers.
The retina is the clear tissue in the back of the eye. It helps you see the images that are focused on it by the cornea and the lens.
When the retina becomes detached, bleeding from nearby blood vessels can cloud the inside of the eye so that you may not see clearly or at all. Central vision becomes severely affected if the macula becomes detached. The macula is the part of the retina responsible for sharp, detailed vision.
Symptoms of detached retina can include:
Exams and Tests
The ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will examine your eyes. Tests will be done to check the retina and pupil:
Most people with a retinal detachment need surgery. Surgery may be done right away or within a short time after diagnosis. Some types of surgery can be done in your doctor's office.
Severe detachments require surgery in a hospital. These procedures include:
Tractional retinal detachments may be watched for a while before surgery. If surgery is needed, a vitrectomy is usually done.
How well you do after a retinal detachment depends on the location and extent of the detachment and early treatment. If the macula was not damaged, the outlook with treatment can be excellent.
Successful repair of the retina does not always fully restore vision.
Some detachments cannot be repaired.
A retinal detachment causes loss of vision. Surgery to repair it may help restore some or all of your vision.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
A retinal detachment is an urgent problem that requires medical attention within 24 hours of the first symptoms of new flashes of light and floaters.
Use protective eye wear to prevent eye trauma. Control your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes. See your eye care specialist once a year. You may need more frequent visits if you have risk factors for retinal detachment. Be alert to symptoms of new flashes of light and floaters.
American Academy of Ophthalmology Retina Panel. Preferred Practice Pattern Guidelines. Posterior Vitreous Detachment, Retinal Breaks, and Lattice Degeneration. www.aao.org/preferred-practice-pattern/posterior-vitreous-detachment-retinal-breaks-latti-6. Accessed September 10, 2015.
Bowling B. Retinal detachment. In: Bowling B, ed. Kanski's Clinical Ophthalmology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 16.
Rao RC, Shah GK. Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 6.38.
Review Date: 8/11/2015
Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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