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Retinal detachment

Detached retina

Retinal detachment is a separation of the light-sensitive membrane (retina) in the back of the eye from its supporting layers.

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Causes

The retina is the clear tissue that lines the inside of the back of the eye. Light rays that enter the eye are focused by the cornea and lens into images that are formed on the retina. 

When the retina becomes detached, bleeding from nearby blood vessels can cloud the inside of the eye so that you may not see clearly or at all. Central vision becomes severely affected if the macula becomes detached. The macula is the part of the retina responsible for sharp, detailed vision.

Symptoms

Symptoms of detached retina can include:

There is usually no pain in or around the eye.

Exams and Tests

The ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will examine your eyes. Tests will be done to check the retina and pupil:

Treatment

Most people with a retinal detachment need surgery. Surgery may be done right away or within a short time after diagnosis. Some types of surgery can be done in your doctor's office.

Severe detachments require surgery in a hospital. These procedures include:

Tractional retinal detachments may be watched for a while before surgery. If surgery is needed, a vitrectomy is usually done.

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do after a retinal detachment depends on the location and extent of the detachment and early treatment. If the macula was not damaged, the outlook with treatment can be excellent.

Successful repair of the retina does not always fully restore vision.

Some detachments cannot be repaired.

Possible Complications

A retinal detachment causes loss of vision. Surgery to repair it may help restore some or all of your vision.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

A retinal detachment is an urgent problem that requires medical attention within 24 hours of the first symptoms of new flashes of light and floaters.

Prevention

Use protective eye wear to prevent eye trauma. Control your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes. See your eye care specialist once a year. You may need more frequent visits if you have risk factors for retinal detachment. Be alert to symptoms of new flashes of light and floaters.

Related Information

Retina
Retinopathy of prematurity
Macula lutea
Nearsightedness

References

American Academy of Ophthalmology Preferred Practice Pattern Guidelines. Posterior vitreous detachment, retinal breaks, and lattice fegeneration PPP -- 2014. www.aao.org/preferred-practice-pattern/posterior-vitreous-detachment-retinal-breaks-latti-6. Updated October 2014. Accessed October 9, 2017.

Bowling B. Retinal detachment. In: Bowling B, ed. Kanski's Clinical Ophthalmology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 16.

Wickham L, Aylward GW. Optimal procedures for retinal detachment repair. In: Schachat AP, Wilkinson CP, Hinton DR, Sadda SVR, Wiedemann P, eds. Ryan's Retina. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap109.

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Review Date: 8/15/2017  

Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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