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Retinal Detachment

A retinal detachment occurs when the retina is pulled from its normal position. The retina does not work when it is detached. Vision is blurred in that area that is detached, like if the film were loose inside the camera. A retinal detachment is quite serious, and will almost always lead to blindness if not treated.

Questions about Retinal Detachment

Q:What is the retina?

The retina is a nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and sends images to the brain. If you think of the eye as a camera, then the retina is like the film that lines the back of the camera.

Q:What is a retinal detachment?

A retinal detachment occurs when the retina is pulled from its normal position. The retina does not work when it is detached. Vision is blurred in that area that is detached, like if the film were loose inside the camera. A retinal detachment is quite serious, and will almost always lead to blindness if not treated.

Q:What causes a retinal detachment?

The most common cause is after separation of the vitreous layer. The vitreous is a clear gel that fills the inside of the back of the eye. As we all get older, the vitreous shrinks and may pull away from its attachment to the retina. This usually happens without a problem, but sometimes the vitreous pulls hard enough to tear the retina in one or more places.
There are other conditions that can increase the chance of a retinal detachment:

  • Nearsightedness
  • Previous cataract surgery
  • Glaucoma
  • Severe injury
  • Previous retinal detachment in the other eye
  • A family history of retinal detachment
  • Weak areas in your retina that can be seen by your ophthalmologist
Q:What are the warning symptoms of a retinal detachment?

Early symptoms that may indicate the presence of a retinal detachment:

  • Flashing lights
  • New floaters
  • A gray curtain moving across your field of vision

These symptoms do not always mean a retinal detachment is present; however, you should see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible. A retinal detachment can be determined during an eye examination where the pupils are dilated (enlarged).