A detached retina occurs when the retina is pulled or falls away from its normal position. The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye. It converts visual images into nerve impulses in the brain that allow us to see.
Many factors can cause retinal detachment. These include:
Eye trauma—damage from blunt or penetrating injuries to the eye, which may be caused by:
- Sports-related activities
- Blunt trauma
- Flying objects
- Car accidents
- Fluid getting into the sub-retinal space through a retinal break
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Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your chances of getting retinal detachment include:
- Increased age
- Previous retinal detachment
- Family members with retinal detachment
- Holes or tears in the retina
and other types of eye surgery
- Scar tissue in the eye, especially if it contracts
- Tumors in the eye
- Premature birth
- Certain other eye and medical disorders
involving inflammation, infection or vascular disorders such as:
- Severe acute high blood pressure
- Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases
- Blood vessel dieases
Retinal detachment is painless. However, if it is not treated quickly, a detached retina can cause permanent, partial, or total vision loss. If you have any of these symptoms, contact an eye doctor right away:
- Sudden appearance or increase in the number of floaters, which are shapes that float in the eye and are seen in the field of vision
- Brief flashes of light in the eye
- Loss of the eye’s central or peripheral field of vision
- A curtain appears to fall over part of the visual field
- Sudden changes or blurring of vision
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. An eye exam will be done with your eyes dilated. A special instrument called a slit-lamp will be used.
Your eye may be examined using ultrasound.
Treatments may include:
- Cryotherapy or cryoretinopexy—A freezing probe is used to seal the retina back into its normal position.
- Diathermy—Heat is used to seal the retina back into its normal position.
- Laser retinopexy—A laser is used to make tiny burns around the area of detachment. This seals down the surrounding retina, often preventing further detachment.
- Pneumatic retinopexy—A special type of gas bubble is injected into the eye. The gas bubble pushes the retina back into place.
All of these procedures are often combined with other procedures or surgeries.
- Vitrectomy—the surgical removal of vitreous
that is pulling on the retina and causing detachment
- Scleral buckle—the surgical placement of a flexible band around the eye
If you are diagnosed with a detached retina, follow your doctor's
To help prevent retinal detachment, do the following:
Always wear protective eyewear or goggles when participating in:
- Contact sports
- Activities that involve flying objects
- Any other potentially dangerous activity where the eye can get injured
- Have regular eye exams at least once a year if you are at risk. Depending on your age and risk factors, you may need to see the eye doctor more often.
Contact an eye doctor immediately if you have:
- An eye injury
- Any symptoms of retinal detachment, such as flashing lights, floating objects, loss of part of your peripheral vision, or any other change in vision
American Academy of Ophthalmology
National Eye Institute
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Retinal detachment: what is a torn or detached retina? American Academy of Ophthalmology's eyeSmart website. Available at:
. Accessed June 27, 2013.
Facts about retinal detachment. National Eye Institute website. Available at:
Updated October 2009. Accessed June 27, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Eric L. Berman, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013