The retina is a sensory layer at the back of the eye and plays an essential role in the process that converts light that enters the eye into visual images. The good health of the retina is crucial for clear vision. One serious condition that can affect this vital component is if the retina tears away from the underlying supportive tissue—this is known as retinal detachment. When this happens vitreous (the gel-like substance within the eye) can seep behind the retina, causing it to further separate from the vital blood vessels and structures beneath. This can occur through trauma to the eye or can happen spontaneously—often due to the natural aging process. Whatever the reason behind the condition, it prevents the retina from functioning correctly. Without appropriate and prompt intervention this is a sight-threatening event. If left untreated for any length of time permanent loss of vision can occur.

Before Treatment

If your retina is detached or torn you will experience many floaters or dark spots, flashing lights, blurry or distorted vision.

After Treatment

If treated immediately there should not be any vision loss and your vision will be clear again.

How Do I Know if I Need Retinal Detachment Surgery?

Retinal detachment presents with a variety of signs and symptoms. Depending on the speed of the detachment these might evolve suddenly or a little slower. Previous instances of retinal detachment increase the risk of it happening again. There are occasions when small holes or retinal tears produce no symptoms. While rare, such instances are most usually discovered during a regular eye examination and appropriate treatment is promptly instigated. Symptoms that you might be suffering from retinal detachment and require urgent treatment from a retina surgeon include:

  • The sudden appearance (or an increase in the number) of dark spots and/or floaters
  • Seeing flashes of light
  • A shadow or “curtain” descending from the top of the eye or intruding from the side
  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Gradually reducing peripheral vision

While retinal detachment is usually painless, all of the above are warning signs that warrant immediate investigation. Retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If you experience any of the above symptoms you should seek urgent advice from a local ophthalmologist. Such an expert can easily be found by entering “retina doctor near me” or “retina eye specialists near me” into Google or another search engine.

What Happens During Retina Surgery?

Retinal detachment surgery is carried out under either local or general anesthetic. Your retina specialist will decide which is the most appropriate for your condition. The necessary treatment will be determined by the type of retinal detachment that’s occurred. There are three forms of retinal detachment. These are:

  • Rhegmatogenous: The most common type, this happens when a small hole or tear allows the vitreous to exude from the inner chamber of the eye and collect beneath the retina. Such displacement applies enough pressure to cause the retinal layer to be pulled away from the underlying structures, including the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. In turn, this disrupts visual integrity. The most common cause of this is aging—you might hear it referred to as posterior vitreous detachment, or by its acronym, PVD.
  • Tractional: More common in those with diabetic retinopathy, this occurs when scar tissue builds up on the surface of the retina. This pulls the retinal layer away from the underlying surface.
  • Exudative: This is due to fluid building up between the retina and the structures beneath. While there is no physical hole or tear, the increasing accumulation of fluid forces the retinal layer to detach. There are several reasons this might occur, including trauma to the eye, age-related macular degeneration, inflammatory disorders, or the formation of tumors.

Carrying out re-attachment or fixing a tear or hole will involve a retina specialist carrying out procedures that includes one or a combination of the following:  

  • Vitrectomy: This is to remove and replace the jelly within the eye
  • Scleral buckling: A small band is attached around the eye. This pushes the retina and wall of the eye closer together
  • Pneumatic retinopexy: A small bubble of gas is injected into the eye to push the retina back against the wall
  • Cryotherapy: This is the sealing of a retinal tear with a freezing treatment

How Can A Retina Specialist Near Me Help With This Condition?

Any form of retinal surgery requires clinical intervention from a specialist. Searching for a retinal doctor near me is likely to be the best course of action, as the condition is a medical emergency. Should you become aware of any symptoms of retinal detachment (sudden onset of spots, floaters, flashing lights, shadowed or blurred vision, etc.) it’s necessary to get expert help within 24 hours.

Retina eye specialists carry out the vital prompt treatment that can—quite literally—save your eyesight. Such an expert will quickly determine the form of retinal detachment and the appropriate urgent treatment to rectify it. If you’ve suffered from a detached retina there is a risk of a relapse. As such, it would be prudent to keep a note of your retinal specialist so you know exactly who to contact should symptoms reoccur.

What is the retina?

The retina is a layer at the back of the eye that is sensitive to light. The retina converts the light rays into impulses that travel through the optic nerve to our brain, where a visual image is formed. A healthy, intact retina is key to clear vision.

What is retinal detachment?

With age, the vitreous of the eye can change shape and pull away from the retina, causing a retina tear. When a retinal tear occurs, vitreous fluid can lift the retina off the back wall of the eye, causing the retina to detach. If a retinal tear is not treated quickly, it can lead to blindness.

What causes retinal detachment?

The most common cause of a detached retina is natural age-related changes to the vitreous (jelly) within the eye. This is known as posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) and occurs spontaneously. While there is nothing you can do to prevent it, it does seem to have a higher prevalence in the following situations:

  • Being older than 50
  • Extreme short-sightedness (myopia)
  • Following an eye injury
  • A family history of retinal detachment
  • Having undergone an eye surgery (such as cataract replacement)
  • Having had other eye disorders (such as retinoschisis or uveitis)

How long before retinal detachment causes blindness?

The extent of vision loss is determined by the extent of retinal detachment. Severe trauma could cause this to happen very quickly, whereas a fluid build-up might mean it happens over a relatively longer timescale (hours and days, as opposed to a sudden-onset). 

The condition is a medical emergency, no matter what level of detachment is present. The sooner you seek specialist advice the lower the chance is that there will be permanent damage to your eyesight.

When you’re assessed by a retina specialist, he or she will determine the best course of treatment. This is usually a surgical intervention to reattach the retina. Depending on the part of the eye that’s affected this is likely to be carried out within 24 hours of becoming symptomatic. If the macula (the part of the eye that controls central vision) isn’t yet affected then it’s likely that they’ll carry out the most urgent intervention to prevent this happening. If this element of vision has already been affected then they may defer treatment for a day or two.

What does retinal detachment look like?

Experiencing a retinal detachment is likely to be experienced with one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A sudden onset or increase in the number of floaters, black spots, and/or flashing lights
  • A shadow or curtain appearing in your vision—either from the top or side of your field of vision

 The symptoms can be mild or severe, depending on the extent of the retinal detachment. The condition is usually painless.

What to expect after laser surgery for retinal tear?

Some discomfort is likely post-treatment. This tends to feel like bruising and your eyelids may be sticky. While this can last for a few weeks it can be addressed by taking over-the-counter pain relief. Your retinal specialist will provide you with corticosteroid and antibiotic eye drops that will help reduce any inflammation and prevent infection. It’s important to take these exactly as instructed by your retina surgeon.

You may be advised to refrain from certain activities for a specified period (usually several weeks) to allow the surgery to heal. Contact sports that put you at risk of blows to the head or eyes aren’t recommended.

It’s also likely that your vision will be blurred, perhaps for some weeks after surgery. While reattachment procedures have a high level of success, the level to which your vision will be restored depends on several factors:

  • How much of the retina has become detached
  • Whether the macula (responsible for central vision) was detached
  • Pre-existing conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy

What is the retina of the eye?

The retina is a fine layer of tissue that lines the back of the interior of the eye. It contains special cells that are sensitive to light. Its job is to receive light signals that enter the eye through the lens. The retina then processes these signals, converts them, and passes them via the optic nerve to the brain. It’s here that these neural signals are converted into the images that we perceive as sight.

What are the symptoms of a detached retina?

There are four main symptoms that might be signs of a detached retina:

  1.     Floaters: These are the appearance of lines or dots in your field of vision that move as you try to focus on them. They’re caused by tiny bits of debris within the vitreous fluid (jelly) within the eye. Floaters are common (and many people naturally experience them as they age). However, new ones, changes to existing ones, or sudden onset should be seen as a warning sign that requires the assistance of an ophthalmologist as a matter of urgency.
  2.     Flashing lights: Again, this is something many people experience, often around their peripheral vision. While most are nothing to worry about, a new onset of flashing lights—especially if combined with new floaters—should be urgently examined by an eye doctor.
  3.     A solid dark shadow: While the first two symptoms might be a symptom of early retinal detachment, seeing a solid dark shadow moving inwards from the edge of your field of vision is a symptom of advancing retinal detachment. You will not be able to see through the shadow, and as the condition worsens so the shadow moves closer to the center of your vision. This warrants immediate attention. If you can’t get to see your regular eye doctor immediately then you should go to the Emergency Room (ER) at the nearest hospital.
    4.     Blurred vision: While this can be a symptom of many eye conditions, if you notice a sudden blurring (and especially if accompanied by any of the above three symptoms) it can be a sign of retinal detachment.

What is the most common cause of retinal detachment?

There are many causes, but the most common are those of eye trauma and aging. 

 Other risk factors include:

  • A previous retinal detachment
  • Family history of retinal detachment
  • Previous eye surgery (such as cataract treatment)
  • Previous serious eye trauma
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Extreme shortsightedness (myopia), in particular, degenerative myopia
  • The presence of other eye diseases, such as lattice degeneration or retinoschisis