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Retinal detachment is a serious eye issue that requires immediate surgery to treat. Retinal detachment treatments achieve partial or full vision recovery in an overwhelming number of patients. If you're worried you may be at risk for retinal detachment, talk to your eye care professional.


Your retina is a layer of tissue attached to the back half of your inner eyeball. The retina is responsible for collecting the light that comes through your pupil. It sends signals to the optic nerve, which communicates with your brain. Your brain then interprets the light from the retina into what you see. When retinal detachment happens, either part of or the entire retina becomes disconnected from the tissue that keeps it attached to the rest of the eyeball. Three types of retinal detachment exist:

  • Rhegmatogenous, which happens when retinal tears let fluid build up behind the retina, causing it to detach. This is the most common type of retinal detachment.
  • Tractional, which occurs because of scar tissue pulling on the retina until it detaches.
  • Exudative, which happens when the tissue connecting the retina to the sclera accumulates too much fluid and pushes the retina into detachment.


Extreme myopia is one of the main causes of retinal detachment. When you're nearsighted, your eyeball is elongated, rather than spherical. When the elongation is severe enough, your retina becomes stretched and sometimes detaches as a result. Severe eye or head trauma can also cause the retina to detach, as can existing scars or tears on your retina. Some diseases, like retinoschisis and uveitis, also cause retinal detachment.


retinal detatchmentImage via Flickr by National Eye Institute

When the retina detaches slowly, you may see an explosion of floaters or random flashes of light in the affected eye. You'll probably experience blurred vision. In some cases, you see a shadow falling across your vision or parts of your vision go black. Sometimes, you lose vision very quickly in one eye, if the retina detaches very fast. If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Retinal detachment is not life-threatening, but can cause permanent vision loss when left untreated, and counts as a medical emergency.


For small tears and detachments, the most common treatment for reattaching the retina is laser surgery or cryopexy, which freezes the hole. All retinal detachment treatments use either laser surgery or cryopexy to reattach the retina, but sometimes surgeons take additional measures. In more severe cases of retinal detachment, surgeons place a scleral buckle around the eye, which applies pressure to the retina and keeps it attached. Another treatment is a vitrectomy, which involves creating a gas bubble inside the eyeball to hold the retina in place. In 90 percent of cases, retinal detachment is treatable and doctors are able to restore at least some vision. Ensure you visit the eye doctor regularly to keep abreast of any warning signs or eye health factors that may show you're at risk for retinal detachment.

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