Retinal Detachment

Retinal Detachment

Anatomical model of the eye and retina

Retinal Detachment is a serious eye condition that occurs when the retina pulls away from the back of the eye. This condition can happen to anyone, but some people are at additional risk. In this blog, we’ll discuss the symptoms, risk factors, and treatments for a detached retina. 

What is a Retinal Detachment?

A retinal detachment occurs when the retina becomes detached from the back of the eye. The retina is a layer of tissue at the back of the eye made of light sensitive receptor cells which send information to the brain. When a detachment occurs, the retina cannot transmit this information, leading to blurry vision or even blindness. 

Who is at risk?

Anyone can have a retinal detachment, however you are more likely to have a detachment if you:

  • Are over age 50
  • Are nearsighted (myopic)
  • Have had a serious eye injury
  • Have had eye surgery
  • Have previously had a retinal detachment
  • Have family members who have had a detachment
  • Have other eye problems such as diabetic retinopathy, posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), lattice degeneration, and degenerative myopia. These conditions are diagnosed by an eye doctor during a vision exam. 

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of retinal detachment are:

  • Seeing flashes of light in your vision
  • Sudden onset of new floaters (squiggly lines or spots in your vision)
  • A shadow or curtain in your vision

If you have any of these symptoms, call your eye doctor immediately. These symptoms are considered an emergency.

What causes retinal detachment?

There are several factors that can lead to retinal detachment. Some of the most common causes of RD are:


As we age, the vitreous humor which fills the eye can shrink and pull on the retina, leading to holes or tears in the tissue. The vitreous may then enter the hole and push the retina away from the back of the eye, causing a retinal detachment. 


Diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels at the back of the eye. This can lead to the development of scar tissue, which causes traction on the retina. Eventually these scars may pull the retina away from the back of the eye, causing a detachment. 


Swelling can occur when certain conditions cause fluid to build up in the back of the eye. Some causes of swelling in the eye are Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD), injury or trauma to the eye, and inflammatory conditions of the eye. 

Myopia (Nearsightedness)

People who have high myopia (often defined as -5 diopters or more) may have thinner retinas, due to the increased length of the eye. This thinning puts them at higher risk of retinal detachment. 

How is it treated?

Symptoms of retinal detachment should be assessed by an eye doctor as soon as possible. Your ophthalmologist will determine the best treatment option for your eyes based on the severity of the detachment. 

Laser Treatment:

If the retina has a small hole or tear, it may be treated with a laser. An ophthalmologist will use a medical laser to seal the affected tissue at the back of the eye. She does this by aiming the laser through the opening of the eye known as the pupil. When the laser reaches the back of the eye, the beam will leave a small burn on the affected tissue, causing a scar that seals the tear. 


If a large portion of the retina is detached, you may need to have surgery. There are 3 types of surgery to treat a retinal detachment: 

  • Pneumatic Retinopexy-in this type of surgery, your ophthalmologist will insert a gas bubble into the eye. This bubble holds the retina in place until the eye can heal.
  • Vitrectomy-in this type of surgery, your ophthalmologist will remove the vitreous fluid and replace it with a bubble of air, gas, or oil. Similar to pneumatic retinopexy, the bubble holds the retina in place while the eye heals.
  • Scleral Buckle-in this type of surgery, your ophthalmologist will sew a surgical band to the exterior of the eyeball. This supports the retina as it heals.  

Your ophthalmologist will choose the best method for your eyes based on the size of the detachment and where it has occurred. 

A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If you are experiencing symptoms of a retinal detachment, such as flashes of light in your vision, sudden new floaters, or a curtain or veil in your vision, call your eye doctor immediately. Early intervention is key to preserving your eyesight. Early detection of retinal tears or holes during a routine eye exam may prevent a retinal detachment. To schedule an eye exam, call or text (907) 328-2920. To learn more about your eyes, visit our website at

Written By: Gina Stafford, COA, LDO, ABOC

Photo by Harpreet Singh on Unsplash

Posted in: Uncategorized

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