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Retinal Detachment

A retinal detachment is a serious problem that usually affects middle-aged or older people. If it isn’t treated immediately, it will lead to vision problems or even vision loss

Retinal detachment

Vision with a Retinal Detachment

Causes of Retinal Detachment

In most cases the retina detaches because of small tears or holes. These may occur as the retina thins with age. More often, they happen because the vitreous partially separates from the retina. The vitreous is firmly attached to the retina in a few places, and as we get older it separates and may tear the retina at those areas of attachment. In about half of the population, the vitreous has separated from the retina by age 50.

Retinal Detachment

Nearsightedness,  infection or injury such as a hard solid blow to the eye, can also make the retina separate. It is more common in people with a family history of retinal detachment. When there is a hole in the retina, fluid from the vitreous space may pass through the hole and flow between the retina and the back wall of the eye. This can separate the retina from the back of the eye and cause it to detach. The detached part of the retina will not work properly, and you will see a blurry or blind spot in your field of vision.

Less commonly, retinal detachment can also be caused by eye diseases, complications of diabetes, or tumours. In these cases there may be no tears or holes in the retina.


Your vision may seem wavy or watery, or you may have a shadow or veil in your peripheral vision. You may also see a lot of new floaters or flashing.

If the retina detaches further, central vision gets blurry. This can lead to serious vision loss unless it is fixed.

Sometimes retinal detachment happens suddenly.

A detached retina is painless and cannot be seen from the outside of the eye. If you notice symptoms, you should see an optometrist right away. If you are very nearsighted or have a family history of retinal detachment, you should have regular eye exams by an optometrist to detect changes and prevent retinal detachment.


If the retina is torn, you may be able to stop detachment by getting the tear treated quickly. If there is little or no detachment, tears can sometimes be sealed with a laser (called ‘laser photo-coagulation’). The laser makes small burns to seal the edges of the tear. This can be done without a hospital stay.

The edges of the tear can also be sealed by freezing the wall of the eye behind the tear (called ‘cryopexy’). Cryopexy is also done without a hospital stay, but you will need a local anesthetic to numb the eye.