Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment is a serious condition of the eye in which the retina of the eye tears away from its underlying support tissue. Retinal detachment is a surgical emergency and needs to be treated quickly. Failure to do so can cause permanent loss of vision. 

Symptoms of retinal detachment

Retinal detachment is not painful and can happen quite suddenly.

Symptoms include: 

  • Sudden increase in the number of floaters 
  • Flashes of light 
  • A strange dark ‘curtain’ over part of your vision, in the middle or the sides 

If you notice any of these symptoms, call emergency services immediately and get treatment. These symptoms could also be for retinal tear, which is when the retina has torn away from the support tissue but has not come loose yet. Retinal tear can be more easily treated, whereas retinal detachment requires a more serious surgery. 

Causes and risk factors of retinal detachment

The causes of retinal detachment differ based on the type. There are three main types of retinal detachment:

1. Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment: This is the most common kind of RD; it occurs when the vitreous gel within the eye shrinks as a normal process of aging, but somehow pulls at the retina and causes a tear.
2. Traction retinal detachment: This type of RD occurs when there are scar tissues in the eye caused by an injury, inflammation, or disease (such as diabetes). The scar tissue may pull at the retina, causing a retinal tear.
3. Exudative retinal detachment: This type of RD occurs when injury, inflammation, or disease (such as diabetes or macular degeneration) causes fluid to build up behind the retina. This fluid build-up then adds pressure behind the retina and pushes it out, forcing it to come loose.

Risk factors of developing retinal detachment include:

  • Severe nearsightedness
  • Advanced age
  • Family history of retinal tear or retinal detachment
  • Diabetes
  • Injury to the eye
  • Cataract surgery


Scleral Buckle

Retinal detachment may be treated by the following surgical procedures: 

  • Scleral Buckle 

In this procedure, the doctor will sew a silicone band around the white of the eye (the sclera). This band pushes the sclera toward the retinal tear or detachment, prevents further leak of the vitreous fluid, and helps the retina reattach. 

  • Vitrectomy

In this procedure, the vitreous gel within the eye is removed and replaced with a gas bubble or oil. The patient may be required to hold their head in a tilted position for several days to allow for the retina to reattach and heal. 

Surgeries for retinal detachment are effective 80% to 90% of times, even though vision post-surgery may not be as good as before. However, if not treated, retinal detachment will cause permanent blindness in a matter of weeks. 


The best way to prevent retinal detachment is by screening for retinal tears. If any of the risk factors apply for you, make sure to book regular eye screenings for retinal tears. Retinal tears are easy to treat and can be repaired through laser surgery or cryotherapy. Retinal detachment is much more difficult to treat and requires a more complex surgery which may not always work. 


What is the main cause of retinal detachment?
There are many causes of retinal detachment, but the most common causes are noted here: Age-related vitreous atrophy can exert a pull on the retina and result in a tear, which can expand further; Diabetic retinopathy induced retinal scarring can result in tractional retinal detachment; Injury to the eye, trauma, tumors, or other eye disorders can cause buildup of fluid behind the eyes, which can progress to retinal tear.
Does retinal detachment require urgent care?
If treated early, retinal detachment can be corrected. When the holes are still small or there is only a minor tear, laser surgery can seal the hole or tear to prevent it from progressing to retinal detachment. Retinal detachment can lead to significant impairment in vision, and can even progress to blindness in the affected eye.
What are the signs and symptoms of retinal detachment?
In early stages of retinal detachment when the holes or tears are still small, there may be no symptoms. When retinal detachment occurs, the patient experiences no pain, but sudden warning signs may appear such as eye floater and flashes, a curtain-like darkness over the eye, and blurry vision.
Must surgery be done immediately for a retinal detachment?
Early treatment of retinal detachment can prevent it from resulting in severe visual impairments and potential blindness in the affected eye. Therefore, it is best to consult with an ophthalmologist as soon as warning signs of a retinal detachment first appear.
Are retinal detachment surgeries always successful?
Retinal detachment surgery success rates typically range between 80% to 90%. But several factors such as extent of tear, time of presentation after detachment has occurred, and presence of other underlying conditions can affect success rates. Some patients may require a second surgery for a successful treatment.
Will I go blind after a retinal detachment?
Retinal detachment can lead to significant visual impairment, and can even cause blindness in the affected eye if urgent care is not sought. Retinal detachment surgery can prevent further worsening of vision. Your vision will gradually improve as you recover from the surgery, but there may be some permanent visual impairment.
What happens if a retinal detachment is left untreated?
An untreated retinal detachment will not heal on its own. The retina is attached to the choroid layer below. If the retina gets detached from the choroid layer, the blood supply to the retina gets cut off, which can lead to retinal cell death. The longer the duration of retinal detachment, the worse the prognosis. Eventually, the affected may suffer a significant visual impairment that can even progress to blindness.
What warning signs may be indicative of retinal detachment?
Retinal detachment is painless and usually asymptomatic in the early stages. However, some warning signs can occur which are indicative of retinal detachment such as: Eye floaters appear suddenly in large numbers; You notice sudden flashes of light in your eyes; A veil or curtain like darkness can cloud vision; Gradually worsening progressive peripheral blindness.

Call us today to see how we can make your vision sharper and clearer.

At Focus Eye Care & Surgery, our New York refractive surgeon will make a thorough eye evaluation to get the correct diagnosis. The result is a treatment plan developed with you so your vision and lifestyle need are addressed.
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