What are the signs of a detached retina

Overview of Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment is a serious medical condition that needs to be treated as soon as possible. Symptoms of this condition include flashes of light, floaters, and blurred or distorted vision. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent vision loss. It is important to be aware of the signs of a detached retina so that you can seek medical attention as soon as possible. In this article, we will discuss what a detached retina is and what signs to look for.

Definition of retinal detachment

Retinal detachment is an ocular condition where the retina, a light-sensitive layer of tissue located in the back of the eye, becomes separated or disconnected from its underlying supportive tissue. It usually occurs due to fluid accumulation behind the retina – known as a retinal tear or detachment – which causes the retina to pull away from this supporting tissue.

When left untreated, symptoms can worsen and cause further detachment, leading to vision loss and/or permanent blindness. Retinal detachment can occur at any age but is more common among individuals over 40 years old with nearsightedness. When detected early, however, it can often be treated successfully before any permanent damage occurs.

Early signs of retinal detachment include:

  • Floaters in your field of vision
  • Flashes of light
  • Sudden blurriness
  • Curved or wavy lines appearing in part of your vision
  • A curtain-like shadow moving across your eyesight

If you experience any one or combination of these warning signs it is important to schedule an appointment with an eye doctor immediately for further evaluation as prompt treatment may help reduce the risk of further progression and/or vision loss.

Causes of retinal detachment

Retinal detachment is the separation of a thin layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eye from its normal position. This can result in decreased vision and, if not treated promptly, blindness.

The primary causes of retinal detachment include aging, severe injury to the eye, diseases that affect the shape of the eye, retinal tears or breaks, and abnormal accumulations of fluid inside the eye.

Aging is one cause for retinal detachment because our eyes tend to become more vulnerable to injury with age. Over time, our vitreous (the gel-like substance in front of and supporting our retina) becomes liquefied in places due to gravity which can detach a portion or all of the retina from its normal position in the back wall of the eye.

Severe injuries such as blunt force trauma or penetration by foreign material can also lead to actual tears or holes in the retina’s delicate tissue which could result in permanent damage if not identified and treated right away. Certain diseases such as myopia (nearsightedness), diabetes or high blood pressure can change the shape and/or structure of an individual’s eyes making them more subject to retinal problems including detachment.

Finally, abnormal accumulations such as cystoid macular edema (CME), subretinal fluid (SRF), posterior vitreous detachments (PVDs) and hemorrhages from existing tears within both layers associated with a detached retina all contribute heavily to tearing away any attachment threatening unaffected areas left within their wake.

Symptoms of Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment is a serious medical condition that can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated promptly. It occurs when the thin tissue layer that lines the inside of the eye (the retina) becomes separated from the inside wall of the eye. Knowing the signs of retinal detachment can be very important as early detection is key for successful treatment and preserving vision.

Let’s explore what the signs of a detached retina are:

Flashes of light

Flashes of light, or photopsia, is one of the earliest and most common symptoms of retinal detachment. Patients may see bright flashes of light in one or both eyes or experience a sudden shower of stars. These flashing lights typically appear when the retina is pulled away from its normal position resulting in either a full or partial detachment. In some cases, long-term detached retinas can cause decreased vision that often gets worse over time.

In addition to flashes of light, patients may also experience floaters – dark specks that move around in the vision field – as physical evidence that indicates their retinas are detaching. As more vitreous fluid moves into the detached area and shrinks away from other portions of the eye, it can cause changes such as floaters and bright spots along with blurred spots in places where the retina has pulled away from normal tissue growth.

If you experience any photosensitivity or vision disturbances including flashes of light accompanied by spots, seeing cobwebs form across your eyesight or extreme tiredness accompanied by headaches and seeing darkness on any side of your vision field – seek medical attention immediately as these may be symptoms of a detached retina which could lead to permanent blindness if left untreated.


Floaters are spots or strings that float across your field of vision. These often appear when the eye is tired and you are not looking directly at an object. Floaters can become more prominent when you look at a bright, plain background such as a clear blue sky or a white wall. They may also increase when you look into a well-lighted room after being in the dark for some time.

In cases of retinal detachment, floaters may appear in clusters, seem to float more rapidly or may become so dense they block out vision in your peripheral field. It’s important to note that all individuals experience floaters, with some being more pronounced and noticeable than others.

If you’re suddenly experiencing significantly more floaters than normal or they seem to be blocking out vision, especially if accompanied by flashes of light or shadows in the center of your visual field, contact your ophthalmologist immediately.

Blurred vision

Blurred or distorted vision is one of the most common signs of a detached retina. You may also see flashes of light in the affected eye, or experience an increase in the appearance of floaters, which are small spots that drift around your field of vision. Noticing any new changes in your vision should be monitored closely and you should consult an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

Other symptoms of retinal detachment include

  • sudden or gradual loss of peripheral (side) vision;
  • a curtain-like shadow appearing over part of your visual field; and
  • bright flashes that appear to be lightening streaks in one eye.

More serious symptoms can occur if the detachment is not treated quickly: These can include total blindness in that same eye, or double vision caused by detachment in both eyes.

Dark or empty areas in vision

Dark or empty areas appearing in your vision can be a sign of retinal detachment, which is a serious eye condition that requires immediate medical attention. The area can appear in any of the quadrants – upper right, upper left, lower right, or lower lower – and can quickly fill up an entire visual field.

Other symptoms to look out for are flashes in your peripheral vision, usually described as bright “cobwebs” or “strings” of light; or floaters which appear as tiny speckles that move around when looking at something else. You may also feel eye pressure, pain due to stretching on the retina and changes in your sight such as blurry vision.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it’s important to visit your eye care provider immediately for an examination to rule out retinal detachment.

Risk Factors of Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment is a sight-threatening medical emergency caused by a separation or tears in the retina of the eye. There are a number of risk factors that may predispose someone to developing a retinal detachment. These risk factors include trauma to the eye, age-related changes, certain medical conditions, and a family history of retinal detachment.

It is important to be aware of these risk factors to know when to be extra vigilant when it comes to eye health.

Family history of retinal detachment

Having a family history of retinal detachment increases the risk of developing this eye condition. Although genetic disorders, such as Stickler syndrome, can lead to retinal detachment and a family history may be relevant, more commonly there is a pattern present only within one branch of the family.

Inherited characteristics that improve the likelihood of developing retinal detachment include myopia (nearsightedness), high myopia (extreme nearsightedness) and high degrees of astigmatism. Family members who have these eye conditions should discuss them with their ophthalmologist to determine if they may be at higher risk for retinal detachment. Additionally, family members should receive regular comprehensive glaucoma examinations that include careful evaluation of the retina.

Age is also an important factor when considering risk for developing retinal detachment. The incidence increases with age, especially after age 50, as the vitreous—which normally contains no blood vessels—begins to liquefy and multiple layers form on its inner surface lined with new blood vessels that can tug on and pull away from the retina. In addition to aging-related changes in vision, chronic near work tasks such as those required in computer work doubles our susceptibility to the condition by placing strain on our eyes and increasing vitreal liquefaction – which might lead to contraction forces pulling away retina separatation-gap thereby initiating a detectable detachmetn process.

It’s important to have regular checkups with your ophthalmologist so your vision can be monitored for any changes that indicate increased risk for developing retinal detachments.

Previous eye surgery

Previous eye surgery is one of the leading causes of retinal detachment, as this increases a person’s risk for a retinal tear. This is because complications from some types of eye surgery can actually lead to retinal tears and holes, which can lead to retinal detachment.

In patients who have had cataract surgery, posterior vitreous detachment often occurs at the same time. This occurs when the jelly-like vitreous shrinks and separates itself from other structures in the back center part of the eye known as “the retina“. During this time, floaters may be experienced visually and instability might occur in the gel holding substances attached to the back surface of the retina, leading to a potential retinal tear.

Additionally, those with myopia (nearsightedness) or long sightedness are also at an increased risk of developing retinal detachment due to their diagnosis. This occurs because these diagnoses are caused by an elongated eyeball shape, creating increased tension on not only the back surface but wider sections of “the wall” that keep it attached, thus making them more prone to spontaneous tearing and subsequent detachment.


Nearsightedness, also known as myopia, is a common risk factor in developing retinal detachment as it causes the eyeball to become longer. When the eyes become longer, it will cause the vitreous, a gel-like fluid within the eye., to tear and pull away from the retina. There are two types of detachable retinas caused by myopia: rhegmatogenous retinal detachment and tractional retinal detachment.

Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment occurs when there is a break or tear in your retina and pull away from your underlying tissues. It can be caused by trauma or injury but more commonly occurs as myopic eyes age and become stretched out resulting in tiny areas of tears or holes in the eye tissue. With this type of detachable retina, liquid vitreous seeps through these tiny tears and collects under the retina causing it to separate from the underlying tissue layers and creating a condition known as a “detached retina”.

Tractional retinal detachment occurs when scar tissue forms on your posterior vitreous surface near its attachment point on your retina due to some form of inflammation (i.e., diabetic eye disease). The contracted scar pulls on both sides of your retina causing it to split apart at its weak point where illumination enters your eye at its center. In some cases, tractional retinal detachments will spread beyond one area due to contraction forces applied by damaging fibrous membranes that now extend over other parts of the eyewall surfaces that were not initially involved with tethering.

Injury to the eye

Injury to the eye increases the risk of retinal detachment due to the potential physical trauma that can directly damage the fragile retina. While any type of trauma in or around the eye can potentially lead to retinal detachment, physical trauma from objects, blunt force, and even penetrative instruments all have the potential to cause injury which would increase your risk for retina detachment.

When immediately following a major accident or injury or if experiencing symptoms of retinal detachment such as blank spots in vision or sudden flashes of light you should seek prompt medical attention as soon as possible. Quick treatment can reduce long-term effects from serious eye injuries that could otherwise lead to a detached retina.

Additionally, extreme contact sports such as football or basketball may put you at higher for risk for physical trauma and potentially dangerous perforating tears which can lead to retina detachment if further retreated. For those participating in such sports, it is important to wear protective head and face gear while active on the field/court. In addition proper padding behind protective goggles should be worn during play when possible. Emergency eyewear equipped with tear-resistant polycarbonate lenses is also available and should be considered by those at higher risk for eye injury due to their profession, sport/recreational activity level, etc.

Diagnosis of Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment is a serious eye condition that can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated. Early detection and diagnosis of retinal detachment are key to a successful treatment plan.

The symptoms of retinal detachment vary from person to person, but they typically include flashes of light, floaters, or a curtain-like shadow in the field of vision. This article will provide an overview of the diagnosis process for retinal detachment.

Slit-lamp examination

A slit-lamp examination is a medical test used to detect retinal detachment. This involves an ophthalmologist using a bright light called a slit lamp and then examining your eyes with a microscope under high magnification and bright illumination.

During the assessment, the doctor will look at the back of your eye to get an idea of the degree of damage. This includes looking for signs of retinal tears or detachment, including gaps between the eye layers or holes in the retina itself – which can be indicators that you may have detached retina (RD). They will also check for any signs of swelling or fluid buildup, which can all be indications that you may need further testing.

The doctor may also take photographs of your eyes during this exam which can help them make an accurate diagnosis.

Retinal imaging

Retinal imaging is an essential part of the diagnostic procedure when considering retinal detachment. Diagnostic devices used to view the retina include ophthalmoscopes, fundus cameras, and optical coherence tomography (OCT) devices.

Ophthalmoscopy is the most commonly used method to diagnose a detached retina. This procedure involves looking through a magnifying lens at the back of the eye as its functioning is assessed.

Fundus cameras take detailed digital photographs of both the interior and exterior of the back of the eye which are able to be viewed more closely on a monitor screen or print picture that allow for more precise analysis and accurate diagnosis.

Finally, OCT devices help examine layers of tissue bordering both sides of retina called Bruch’s membrane allowing doctors to assess by providing detailed cross-sectional images taken from each layer below the surface, helping identify any fluid accumulation in related spaces which could indicate or lead to detachment or other issues. Resolution times for diagnoses can vary depending on access technology available in individual facilities.


Ultrasound is an imaging tool used to diagnose retinal detachment. During an ultrasound exam, sound waves are directed into the eye and their reflections create a sensitive image of the back of the eye. This allows the doctor to determine whether or not the retina has become detached from its underlying tissue.

This procedure can also be used to determine if blood or a vitreous gel is present within the eye and if any rips or tears have occurred in the retina itself. In some cases, this type of scan may be able to detect problems that would otherwise go unnoticed on other types of examinations. It can also provide useful information about gently enlarging cavities in eyes affected by

  • diabetes
  • ocular tumors
  • inflammation

Treatment of Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment is a serious medical condition and requires immediate medical attention. There are several signs that you may notice if you are suffering from a detached retina, such as flashes of light, floaters, blurry vision, or a curtain-like effect in your vision. The best way to treat retinal detachment is to seek medical attention before it progresses.

Let’s review the options for treating a detached retina:

Laser surgery

Laser surgery is one of the most common treatments for retinal detachment. In this procedure, a laser is used to create tiny burns around the detachment, which help form a bond between the wall of the eye and the retina. The number of laser spots applied and their positioning depends on the size and location of the detachment. This procedure helps pull the retina back into its normal position and prevent further retinal damage.

The laser treatment typically lasts between five minutes to an hour, depending on how extensive it needs to be. It is generally performed with local anesthetic and sedation, in order to avoid pain or discomfort for the patient. Afterward, your doctor may recommend that you keep your head in a certain position for some days in order for healing to take place properly.

Patients normally have no difficulty seeing following laser photocoagulation, but sometimes blurry vision can occur after treatment due to inflammation or swelling caused by he laser itself and should improve with time.


A vitrectomy is a serious, invasive surgical procedure to treat retinal detachment. It requires local anesthesia, and the recovery time is longer than with less invasive treatments. During the procedure, a vitreous traction device is used to remove the gel-like vitreous humor from within the eye and replace it with a gas bubble. This helps flatten the retina against the back of the eye and holds it in place so that healing can occur. Laser photocoagulation may also be used to seal any tears that may have caused detachment, depending on their location and size.

After completing this procedure, it’s highly recommended for patients to:

  • Lie still face down for several days to allow for maximum healing of the affected area.
  • Wear an eye patch or protective shield over their eye during this time period to ensure no further damage is done to the necessary area.

Scleral buckling

Scleral buckling is a surgical procedure used to treat retinal detachment. It involves using sutures or patches to attach materials directly on the outside of the eyeball. This is done in order to create additional outer pressure, or “buckle,” against the area where the retina has detatched. This helps to form a seal and stop fluids from seeping in, as well as promoting re-attachment of the detached retina by allowing it to heal properly back onto the wall of the eye.

The most common types of scleral buckles used are:

  • Silicone rubber bands
  • Encirculing bands (eye patches)
  • Sponges

These pathes may be placed along with surgery that requires:

  • Surgical cutting or freezing using cryotherapy
  • Vitrectomy (removal of all or some of the vitreous humor)
  • Laser photocoagulation (the use of strong bursts of light to cause vessel growth against a detached retina)

In some cases, no other intervention is necessary when scleral buckling has been applied successfully – this will often depend on how long the detachment has been present and whether any complications have arisen during treatment. Additional post-operative treatments may include immunomodulation medications and long-duration antibiotic therapy to reduce potential risks for infection at-site.