Retinal detachment describes an emergency situation in which a thin layer of tissue (the retina) at the back of the eye pulls away from its normal position.
Retinal detachment separates the retinal cells from the layer of blood vessels that provides oxygen and nourishment. The longer retinal detachment goes untreated, the greater your risk of permanent vision loss in the affected eye.
Warning signs of retinal detachment may include one or all of the following: the sudden appearance of floaters and flashes and reduced vision. Contacting an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) right away can help save your vision.
Retinal detachment itself is painless. But warning signs almost always appear before it occurs or has advanced, such as:
When to see a doctor
Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing the signs or symptoms of retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is a medical emergency in which you can permanently lose your vision.
Your doctor may use the following tests, instruments and procedures to diagnose retinal detachment:
Your doctor will likely examine both eyes even if you have symptoms in just one. If a tear is not identified at this visit, your doctor may ask you to return within a few weeks to confirm that your eye has not developed a delayed tear as a result of the same vitreous separation. Also, if you experience new symptoms, it’s important to return to your doctor right away.
More Information Ultrasound
Surgery is almost always used to repair a retinal tear, hole or detachment. Various techniques are available. Ask your ophthalmologist about the risks and benefits of your treatment options. Together you can determine what procedure or combination of procedures is best for you.
When a retinal tear or hole hasn’t yet progressed to detachment, your eye surgeon may suggest one of the following procedures to prevent retinal detachment and preserve vision.
Both of these procedures are done on an outpatient basis. After your procedure, you’ll likely be advised to avoid activities that might jar the eyes — such as running — for a couple of weeks or so.
After surgery your vision may take several months to improve. You may need a second surgery for successful treatment. Some people never recover all of their lost vision.