Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment occurs when the retina separates from the outer layers of the eye.

The retina is the innermost layer of the eye which acts like the film in a camera. Light rays that enter the eye are focused onto the retina, stimulating the nerve fibres which then send information to the brain to process what we see. If not treated early, retinal detachment may lead loss of vision.


Retinal detachment in upper part of photograph.


Localised retinal detachment in upper part of photo successfully lasered.

Retinal Detachment - Symptoms

The initial symptoms are usually a sudden increase in either the number of floaters, which are little “cobwebs” or specks that float about in your field of vision or seeing light flashes in the eye.

Another symptom is the appearance of a curtain or shadow over your field of vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. Delay in doing surgery may result in poorer outcome and you may develop permanent vision loss.

Retinal Detachment - Prevention

If you have any of the risk factors for retinal detachment, you may consider avoiding activities where there is a risk of shock or pressure on the head or eyes. Regular eye examinations can pick up problems early. Be more aware of symptoms like increased floaters and flashes. With early treatment, a torn retina can be fixed by laser before full retinal detachment occurs.

Retinal Detachment - Causes and Risk Factors

What causes retinal detachment?
Retinal detachment occurs after a tear in the retina develops, allowing fluid to pass through it to separate the retina from the wall of the eye.

Who is at risk of retinal detachment?

  • Are over 40 years old
  • Have had retinal detachment in one eye previously
  • Myopia (short-sightedness)
  • Family history of retinal detachment
  • Have had any eye surgery especially if complications (e.g. cataract surgery)
  • Eye injuries or trauma in the past

Retinal Detachment - Diagnosis

The ophthalmologist may use an instrument with a bright light and a special lens to examine the inside of your eye where the retina is located. To look for any retina holes, tears or detachments.

Retinal Detachment - Treatments

A laser or surgery is usually used to repair a retinal tear, hole or detachment. The doctor will discuss treatment options with you.

Retinal Tears
When a retinal tear or hole has not progressed to a retinal detachment, usually laser treatment is all that is needed to be done.

Laser surgery
The ophthalmologist directs a laser beam at the retinal tear. The burns produced by the laser will adhere the retina to the underlying tissue.

Freezing/ Cryotherapy
In this process, a freezing probe is applied to the outer surface of the eye directly over the retinal tear or hole to freeze the area around the hole. The scar that subsequently develops will help to secure the retina to the eye wall.

Retinal Detachment

If your retina has detached, surgical procedures will be required to repair it.

Scleral buckling. Your doctor may choose to place a scleral buckle which is a silicon band that encircles the eye like a belt. The scleral buckle seals the retinal tears externally.

Vitrectomy. A vitrectomy involves removing the vitreous (the jelly-like substance in the eye cavity) and filling the eye with a gas bubble to hold the retina in place, giving it time to heal. After a vitrectomy, your ophthalmologist may ask you to maintain a certain head posture for a few weeks to position the gas bubble against the hole or tear in the retina.

With modern surgical techniques, over 90% of those with a retinal detachment can be successfully treated with one procedure, although sometimes a second operation may be required. The degree of vision that returns after successful surgery will vary depending on the extent and duration of the retinal detachment.

Disclaimer – Above are just general information and patients are advised to see their Eye Doctors for professional treatment