Retinal Detachment


What is a Retinal Detachment (RD)?
The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye. It absorbs visual images and transmits that information to the brain where it is “seen”. A retinal detachment occurs when the retina separates from the wall of the eye, similar to wall paper being pulled off a wall.


What are the Signs and Symptoms of RD?
Symptoms of a retinal detachment may include flashing lights, floating spots, or a shadow which blocks part of your peripheral vision that can progress toward the central vision.


What are the Causes of RD?
Retinal detachments may be due to a tear in the retina, leakage of fluid under the retina, or scar tissue pulling on the retina. Most retinal detachments are due to tears in the retina. The eye is filled with a gel-like substance called the vitreous. With age, the vitreous undergoes changes and begins to contract and can pull on the retina. If the vitreous is adherent enough to the retina, it can create a tear in the retina. This tear can then allow fluid to get behind the retina, where it pushes the retina away from the eye wall.


Risk factors for developing a detachment include near-sightedness, recent cataract surgery, retinal detachment in the other eye or in your family history, and eye injuries.


What is the Treatment of a RD?
Untreated retinal detachments can lead to blindness. Once a detachment develops, surgery is necessary to fix it. Options for repair include using a gas bubble in the office to push the retina back in place, placing a scleral buckle around the eye, or doing a vitrectomy. The best treatment is determined on an individual basis.


With modern treatments, retinal detachments can be fixed 80-90% of the time with a single procedure. Sometimes multiple procedures are necessary. The most common reason for re-detachment is the development of scarring, which is call proliferative vitreoretinopathy, or PVR. The scarring often develops within the first four months after the retina is repaired. Fortunately the retina can often be reattached in the cases where this scarring develops.


What is the Recovery like after RD?
Detachments are often broken up into two main types depending on whether the central part of the retina remains attached or becomes detached. If the center part of your retina is detached, damage may occur to the tissue which may limit the final vision. The recovery of vision occurs most rapidly during the first 3-6 months after repair, however it may happen sooner.


If you have any symptoms of retinal detachments, you should see your eye care specialist as soon as possible.


For more information about Retinal Detachments, you may wish to visit/contact:

National Eye Institute (NEI)
Retinal Detachment Resource Guide