What is retinal detachment?

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Retinal detachment takes place if the retina splits from the back part of the eye. It is important to note that the retina is a light-sensitive membrane positioned at the rear part of the eye.

Once detachment occurs, it results to loss of vision that can be partial or complete depending on the severity of the detachment. When the retina is detached, its cells might be significantly deprived of oxygen. As a medical emergency, call a doctor right away if the individual suffers from any abrupt visual changes. Remember that there is a risk for lasting loss of vision if detachment is not treated or if treatment was delayed.

What are the indications?

Retinal detachment does not trigger any pain but there are usually symptoms present before the retina detaches.

Retinal detachment does not trigger any pain but there are usually symptoms present before the retina detaches.

The initial symptoms include:

  • Partial visual loss which causes a curtain-like effect across the field of vision along with a dark shadow effect
  • Blurry vision
  • Abrupt flashes of light when looking to the side
  • Abrupt appearance of floaters which are small-sized debris that appear as black strings or flecks floating before the eye

Risk factors

  • Family history of retinal detachment
  • Posterior vitreous detachment (common among the elderly)
  • Eye trauma or injuries
  • Extreme nearsightedness which causes increased strain on the eye
  • Diabetes
  • Complications from cataract removal surgery
  • Being over 50 years of age


In most instances, surgery is required to fix a detached retina. For minor cases or tears on the retina, a simple procedure is done in the doctor’s clinic.

  • Photocoagulation – this is done if there is a hole or tear in the retina but it is still attached. The laser burns around the site of the tear and the resulting scarring secures the retina to the back part of the eye.
  • Cryopexy – this involves freezing using intense cold. The doctor applies a freezing probe outside the eye in the site over the tear and the resulting scarring secures the retina in place.
  • Retinopexy – this is used to fix minor detachments where the doctor places a gas bubble into the eye so that the retina moves back against the wall of the eye. Once the retina is restored in place, a laser or freezing probe is used to seal the holes.
  • Scleral buckling – this is used for severe cases of retinal detachment. A band is placed around the outside of the eye to drive the wall of the eye into the retina to promote proper healing.
  • Vitrectomy – this is used for larger tears and involves anesthesia. The doctor utilizes small tools to get rid of the scar tissue and vitreous from the retina. The retina is restored back in place using a gas bubble.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on retinal detachment is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize the indications and how it is treated by taking a standard first aid course with Victoria First Aid.

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