What Is a Detached Retina?

Detached Retina: An Overview

The retina is a thin layer of nerve tissue that lines the back of your eye and sends messages through the optic nerve to the brain. When the retina becomes loose or detaches from the eye, this is called a detached retina.

Symptoms of a Detached Retina

Often the first symptoms of a detached retina are flashes of light (seen when your eyes are closed) or “floaters,” small spots that float through your field of vision. These symptoms could then be followed by a shadow in your vision and finally a loss of partial vision.

A detached retina occurs when the retina becomes loose and detaches from the eyeball.

Occasionally, these symptoms happen independently and the first sign of a retinal detachment may be the shadow in your field of vision. A detached retina is an emergency situation and if not treated properly may result in permanent loss of eyesight.

If at any point you begin to develop these symptoms, you should consult your doctor.

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Causes and Risk Factors of a Detached Retina

A detached retina most commonly occurs as a result of a tear in the retina. When your retina tears, the gel that is in your eye moves through the tear, causing the retina to become loosened.

A detached retina can also occur without a tear as a result of traction. Traction is the building up of scar tissue under the retina. This buildup can result from an eye injury, nearsightedness, or diabetes.

A detached retina can occur at any age but there are a few risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of a retinal detachment, including:

  • Age (more common over age 40)

  • Gender (more common in men than women)

  • Race (more common in African Americans)

  • Extreme nearsightedness

  • Having had cataract or other eye surgery

  • Family history of retinal detachment

Detached Retina Diagnosis and Treatment

During your appointment, your eye doctor will give you a full eye exam and ask you to describe the symptoms you’re experiencing. Your doctor will use a special tool that allows him or her to get a closer look at the retina to scan for any tears or detachment.

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If diagnosed with a retinal detachment, the only treatment option is surgery. There are a few different surgical options, so consult your doctor for the best option for you.

Without surgery, you may experience vision loss of varying degrees. However, with surgery, your vision can normally be restored.