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Detached Retina
(Retinal Detachment)

A detached retina occurs when the retina is pulled or lifted away from its normal position. The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye. It converts visual images into nerve impulses in the brain that allow us to see.

Many factors can cause retinal detachment. These include:
  • Eye trauma – damage from blunt or penetrating injuries to the eye, which may be caused by:
    • Sports-related activities
    • Blunt trauma
    • Flying objects
  • Severe nearsightedness – this causes an unusually elongated eyeball, which can lead to increased risk for retinal detachment
  • Cataract surgery – this type of surgery can increase the risk of retinal detachment due to:
    • Postoperative scar tissue
    • Postoperative changes in the vitreous fluid
  • Scar tissue in the eye, especially if it contracts
  • Tumors in the eye
  • Certain other eye and medical disorders
Risk Factors:
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for retinal detachment include:
  • Increasing age – with age, changes occur in the eye that can lead to an increased risk of retinal detachment
  • Previous retinal detachment in the other eye
  • Severe nearsightedness
  • Family members with retinal detachment
  • Holes or tears in the retina
Retinal detachment is painless. However, if it is not treated quickly, a detached retina can cause permanent partial or total vision loss. If you have any of these symptoms, contact an eye doctor immediately:
  • Sudden appearance or increase in the number of “floaters,” which are shapes that float in the eye and are seen in the field of vision
  • Brief, bright flashes of light in the eye
  • Loss of the eye’s central or peripheral field of vision
  • A curtain appears to fall over part of the visual field
  • Sudden changes or blurring of vision
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a thorough eye exam. Tests may include:
  • Eye Exam – the pupil is dilated with eye drops, and the inside of the eye is examined with a hand-held lighted instrument called an ophthalmoscope
  • Ultrasound – the use of sound waves to examine the eye
Treatments may include:

Non-Surgical Procedures

Cryotherapy (or Cryoretinopexy) – a freezing probe is used to seal the retina back into its normal position.

Diathermy – heat is used to seal the retina back into its normal position.

Laser Retinopexy – a laser is used to make tiny burns around the area of detachment. This pushes and holds the retina back into its normal position.

Pneumatic Retinopexy – a special type of gas bubble is injected into the eye. The gas bubble pushes the retina back into place.

All of these procedures can be done in conjunction with surgery.

Surgical Procedures

Vitrectomy – the surgical removal of vitreous fluid that is pulling on the retina and causing detachment.

Scleral Buckle – the surgical placement of a flexible band around the eye. This band counteracts the force in the eye that is causing the retinal detachment.

To help prevent retinal detachment, do the following:
  • Always wear protective eye-wear or goggles when:
    • Participating in contact sports
    • Participating in activities that involve flying objects
  • If you have diabetes, try to maintain:
    • Blood sugar levels as normal as possible
    • A steady blood pressure, avoiding large swings between highs and lows
  • Have regular eye exams, at least once a year if you are at risk (depending on your age and risk factors, you may need to see the eye doctor more often)
  • Contact an eye doctor immediately if you have:
    • An eye injury
    • Any symptoms of retinal detachment
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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