Retinal Detachment

diagram comparing a normal eye on the left versus an eye experiencing retinal detachment on the right
Left: normal eye versus Right: eye experiencing retinal detachment

What causes a retinal detachment or tearing?

diagram labeling parts of the eye while experiencing retinal detachment

Retinal detachment, or a detached retina, is a serious eye condition that affects your vision and can lead to blindness if not treated. It happens to a layer of tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. It involves the retina pulling away from tissues supporting it. Symptoms include flashes of light, floaters or seeing a shadow in your vision. Floaters are dark spots and squiggles in your vision.

You may experience warning signs like these before the retina detaches, as in the case of retinal tears. It often happens spontaneously, or suddenly. The risk factors include age, nearsightedness, history of eye surgeries or trauma, and family history of retinal detachments.

Call your eye doctor or go to the emergency room right away if you think you have a detached retina.

Who is at risk for retinal detachment?

Your risk for retinal detachment increases as you age. You’re also at higher risk if you have or had:

How common is retinal detachment?

Retinal detachment is rare for people who have none of the risk factors listed above.

Symptoms and Causes of retinal detachment

Symptoms of a retinal detachment or tear include suddenly seeing flashing lights in one or both eyes, experience an increase or onset of floating spots or hair-like objects, or have a shadowy curtain covering a portion of your vision. These are all symptoms of a potentially serious problem, a torn or detached retina. It’s critical that you see an ophthalmologist right away, as it has the potential to quickly lead to vision loss.

Some people don’t notice any symptoms, while others do. Symptoms can happen suddenly and include:

Example of Floaters in Vision due to retinal detachment
  • Seeing flashes of light.
  • Seeing a lot of floaters — flecks, threads, dark spots and squiggly lines that drift across your vision. (Seeing a few here and there is normal and not cause for alarm.)
  • Darkening of your peripheral vision (side vision).
  • Darkening or shadow covering part of your vision.

Does it hurt?

Retinal detachment is usually painless. But it’s a serious problem that can threaten your vision. Contact your eye doctor or go to the emergency room right away if you think you have a detached retina.

Diagnosis and Tests: How is retinal detachment diagnosed?

You need an eye exam to diagnose retinal detachment. Your eye care provider will perform a dilated eye exam to check your retina. Your provider may recommend other tests after the dilated eye exam for a better view of the back of your eye. These tests are noninvasive and won’t hurt. They help your provider see your retina clearly and in more detail.

Management and Treatment

How is retinal detachment treated?

Retinal detachments are treated by a Vitreo-Retinal Specialist.  Your eye doctor will refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and treatment.  Treatments vary from Laser (thermal) therapy, cryopexy (freezing), and surgery.

Surgical treatment: pneumatic retinopexy.

A bubble of gas is injected into the eye, which pushes on the retina and thereby seals the tear. Second, is a procedure called scleral buckle, sort of like a tiny splint, in which the vitreous fluid is drained out from under the retina, and then a piece of flexible silicone is sewn onto the outer wall to support the tear while it heals. The third option is vitrectomy surgery to remove the vitreous and replace it with a bubble of gas. In time, the body’s own fluids will slowly fill in the bubble.

If you ever experience any of the above symptoms, do not delay seeking an ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room right away.

San Francisco

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San Francisco, CA 94102
Location & Map 1-800-527-3745 1-415-346-5500

Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa Business Location
3540 Mendocino Ave. #200,
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Location & Map 1-800-527-3745 1-707-522-6200

Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa Business Location
3540 Mendocino Ave. #200,
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Location & Map 1-800-527-3745 1-707-522-6200

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