Detached Retina


The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eye. It captures light and sends signals to the brain that result in vision. When a retinal detachment occurs, the retina is separated from the underlying tissue and stops functioning. This causes peripheral shadows and a curtain-like effect, and can lead to total blindness in the affected eye.

Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment: In most cases of retinal detachment, a retinal tear or hole has developed, which allows fluid to leak behind the retina. This breaks the suction that holds the retina in place.

Tractional retinal detachment: Less commonly, a retinal detachment develops due to scar tissue that pulls on the retina.

Exudative retinal detachment: In rare cases, fluid develops under the retina from leady abnormal blood vessels, a tumour or inflammatory tissue under the retina.

Symptoms of Retinal Detachment

The sudden onset of floaters and flashes in one eye is an important warning sign. Wherever the retina detaches, vision is lost and a shadow develops. There may be a 'grey curtain' or 'veil' across the vision, or dark spots floating about.

Risk factors include:

  • Increasing age
  • Short-sightedness
  • Some abnormalities of the peripheral part of the retina
  • A history of retinal detachment
  • A family history of retinal detachment, inherited retinal weakness
  • Previous cataract surgery
  • Trauma

Urgent treatment may be necessary, depending on the degree and position of the retinal detachment. You will be referred to another ophthalmologist for specialised treatment.

Procedures to treat retinal detachment are usually undertaken in an operating theatre and although complex, they are usually successful. In about 10 to 20% of cases, repeat surgery is needed.

The amount and acuity of vision that remains after surgery depends upon the severity of visual loss before surgery.

We would like to acknowledge RANZCO and Mi-tec Medical Publishing for allowing us to use the above information. The complete pamphlet is available from us and will be provided prior to surgery.