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Retinal Detachment


What is retinal detachment?

Retinal detachment is when your retina separates from the back of your eye. The retina is the part of the eye that captures light and sends information to the brain.

Lateral cut-away of the Right Eye

What causes retinal detachment?

Retinal detachment occurs when fluid flows between the retina and your eye. This causes your retina to separate from the back of your eye. Your risk is increased if:

  • You had retinal detachment in your other eye, or you have a family member who has retinal detachment.
  • You are extremely nearsighted.
  • You had eye surgery, such as cataract removal.
  • You have an eye infection caused by a virus or bacteria.
  • You had an eye injury.
  • You have an eye disease, such as scleritis.

What are the signs and symptoms of retinal detachment?

  • Floaters, such as spots, cobwebs, strings, or specks
  • Flashes of light
  • Sudden or gradual blurring of vision
  • Seeing a shadow or a curtain

How is retinal detachment diagnosed?

  • Visual acuity test: Your healthcare provider will test your vision and check your eye movements.
  • Ophthalmoscopy: Your healthcare provider uses an ophthalmoscope to see the back of your eye. An ophthalmoscope is a magnifying instrument with a light. Healthcare providers may use eye drops to dilate your pupil. This helps healthcare providers see the back of your eye clearly.
  • Slit-lamp test: Your healthcare provider uses a microscope with a strong light to check for damage in your eye.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures on a monitor. An ultrasound may be done to show retinal detachment.

How is retinal detachment treated?

Retinal detachment is usually treated with surgery. You may have one of more of the following:

  • Cryopexy: Your healthcare provider freezes the area around the hole or tear in your retina.
  • Laser surgery: Your healthcare provider uses a laser to burn the area where the retina detached. The burned area forms a scar that connects the retina to your eye tissue.
  • Pneumatic retinopexy: Your healthcare provider injects gas bubbles into the eye. This creates pressure in the eye to push the retina back into place.
  • Scleral buckling: Your healthcare provider sews a piece of silicone, plastic, or sponge onto your sclera. The sclera is the white outer layer of your eye. This pushes the sclera toward the detached retina to hold them together.
  • Vitrectomy: Your healthcare provider removes the cloudy or bloody vitreous gel that fills the center of your eye. The gel is replaced by saline (salt water) to maintain normal pressure in your eye. Your healthcare provider may then do a scleral buckling to hold everything in place. He may add gas or liquids to help the retina reattach and seal in the correct place.

What are the risks of retinal detachment?

Your vision may not return to the way it was before your surgery. You may get an infection after surgery. You may need more than one surgery to reattach your retina. Surgery may not be successful and you can lose your vision. Without treatment, you may lose your vision permanently.

How can I care for myself at home?

  • Do not rub your eye: You may need to wear an eye patch to protect your eye, especially at night.
  • Rest or sleep in a certain position as directed: You may need to rest and sleep with your head in a certain position. This will help decrease eye pressure and swelling. Ask what position to rest or sleep in and how many days to do this.
  • Do not travel by airplane: Changes in pressure may cause pain and damage to your eye. Ask your healthcare provider how long you need to wait to travel by airplane.
  • Do not strain when you have a bowel movement: This can increase the pressure in your eye and cause damage.

Where can I find more information?

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
    655 Beach St.
    San Francisco , CA 94109
    655 Beach St.
    San Francisco , CA 94120-7424
    Phone: 1- 415 - 561-8500
    Web Address:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms return after treatment.
  • Your eye is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • Your vision gets more blurry.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You suddenly lose your vision.
  • You have severe eye pain.
  • You have trouble breathing all of a sudden.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.