Disease, Condition & InjuryEyesHead & neck conditions

Detached Retina

(Retinal Detachment)

Detached retina – Definition

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.

Detached retina – Causes

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
  • Severe nearsightedness — This causes an unusually elongated eyeball, which can lead to increased risk for retinal detachment.
  • Cataract surgery — This and many other types of eye surgery can increase the risk of retinal detachment.
  • Scar tissue in the eye, especially if it contracts
  • Tumors in the eye
  • Certain other eye and medical disorders

Detached retina – Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for retinal detachment include:

  • Increasing age — With age, changes occur in the eye that can lead to an increased risk of retinal detachment.
  • Previous retinal detachment in the same or other eye
  • Severe nearsightedness
  • Family members with retinal detachment
  • Holes or tears in the retina
  • Trauma

Detached retina – Symptoms

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 immediately:

  • 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

Detached retina – Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a thorough eye exam. Tests may include:

  • Eye exam — The pupil is dilated with eye drops, and the inside of the eye is examined with a lighted instrument called an ophthalmoscope.
  • Ultrasound — The doctor uses sound waves to examine the eye.

Detached retina – Treatment

Treatments may include:

Non-surgical Procedures

  • 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.

Surgical Procedures

  • Vitrectomy — the surgical removal of vitreous fluid 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 instructions.

Detached retina – Prevention

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

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