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What is Retinal Detachment?

The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue inside the eye that sends visual transmissions to the brain. It is possible for this to become detached from the rest of the eye and results in Retinal Detachment, or detached retina, which if left untreated can cause permanent vision loss and even blindness

Symptoms for a detached retina or retinal detachment

  • Noticing a sudden increase in spots, “cobwebs,” flashes of light
  • Blurry vision
  • Poor vision
  • Shadow descending from the top of the eye


If you notice any of these symptoms IMMEDIATELY CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR. Retinal Detachment is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY.


Causes and Side Effects


Retinal detachment can be caused by injury and or trauma to the eye. There has also been a causal link identified to people with very high levels of near sightedness, as they can be more prone to retinal detachment.

As with most medical maladies there is also a causal relationship between family history of retinal detachment and your likelihood of also having some level of detached retina. 

Cataract surgery, especially those which involve the vitreous, has been known to increase the risk of a detached retina. When the vitreous gel gets moved around it places traction on the retina and may lead to a hole or tear which can start a detachment. Typically, the possibility of this happening is very low and shouldn’t play a major factor into the decision about whether or not to get cataract surgery, as it is usually very beneficial to the patient.

Age comes into play for this as well, as does gender. Men over the age of 40 are the most susceptible to getting a detached retina.

Not treating a Retinal Detachment can cause partial or full blindness if left untreated, so it is imperative you see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

Another possible side effect of a retinal detachment can be a cataract.  It is fairly common, after a retinal detachment/reattachment surgery to see the immediate onset or development of a cataract.  Cataracts are an eye disorder which creates a cloudiness of vision and are treatable via certain surgical procedures such as Phacoemulsification.


Eye Surgery is necessary for treating a Detached Retina. There are a few different processes but all revolve around the reattachment of the retinal tissue to the rest of the eye.

The most common involves a tiny synthetic band used to push the retina back into place and then a surgeon essentially “welds” it to reattach. This is known as scleral buckle surgery and has a very high success rate overall but it is ultimately up to the eye professional as to which treatment is best for each particular case.

The other common type of surgery is Vitrectomy, which is the process of removing the vitreous gel from the middle of eye. This gives the doctor better access to the retina. After the procedure is finished, the doctor puts an oil bubble to make sure the retina stays attached after the surgery. This oil bubble must be removed in a second procedure after the retina is fully reattached.


Recovering from Retinal Detachment Surgery:

Vitrectomies may require the patient to stay in the hospital overnight but are usually cleared to leave. The doctor may instruct the patient to lay face down or face up depending on the type of procedure that he or she underwent. For Vitrectomies it is usually required to lay face down because of the presence of the gas bubble, however the bubble does a good job of keeping the retina attached regardless of the position. These are not set in stone and will vary patient to patient so one should always talk to an eye care professional about specifically what to do

Over 90% of Retinal Detachments can be treated successfully, with the patient having normal vison after a stay overnight at the hospital. The sooner you have the surgery the better chance you have of vision being restored.

By: Peter Cusumano and reviewed by Dr. Jay Stockman