Schedule An

Detached/Torn Retina

Retina with retinal detachmentThe retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that sends images to the brain.  Normally, the retina lies against the back of the eye where blood vessels furnish it with oxygen and nutrients.  Tears in the retina may impair vision and lead to a detached retina.  A detached retina occurs when the retina pulls away from the inside back wall of the eye.  When this happens, vision becomes blurred, shaded or distorted.  Left untreated, retinal detachment almost always causes permanent sight loss in the affected eye.


What causes a detached or torn retina?

Retinal detachment and tears may be caused by eye injury, the aging process, tumors, cataract surgery, eye disease or extreme nearsightedness.  A torn retina occurs when the vitreous, a clear gel that fills the middle of the eye, pulls away from the retina at the back of the eye.  Normally there are no problems when the vitreous separates from the retina.   However, sometimes it pulls hard enough that the fluid flows behind these tears and lifts the retina from the back of the eye.  This can lead to retinal detachment.  When the retina comes loose, it no longer receives oxygen and nutrients from the blood vessels at the back of the eyeball, which results in permanent vision loss. 


Who is most likely to get a detached or torn retina?

Retinal detachment affects more men than women.  There is an increased risk for people who have had eye surgery, retinal detachment in the other eye, or family history of retinal detachment or trauma. 


Several other pre-existing conditions may increase the chances of retinal detachment:

  • High myopia

  • Retinopathy or prematurity

  • Ocular inflammation

  • Glaucoma

  • Marfan’s syndrome


What are the symptoms?

Several early symptoms may indicate a detached or torn retina:

  • Light flashes in one eye

  • Floaters

  • A dark shadow over part of the field of vision

  • Blurred vision or blind spots

  • Watery vision


These symptoms do not always indicate retinal detachment, but individuals experiencing them should see an eye care professional as soon as possible.


How is a detached or torn retina detected?

Some retinal detachments are found during routine visits to an eye doctor.  An eye care professional can diagnose a retinal tear or detachment after a careful examination in which the pupils of the eyes are dilated.

How can a detached or torn retina be treated?

A torn retina is generally treated by sealing the retina to the back of the eye with laser surgery or cryotherapy.  These methods involve minimal discomfort and may prevent future detachments. A more invasive surgery involves using a flexible band around the eye called a scleral buckle.  Alternatively, a gas bubble is placed inside the eye, pushing the tear closed or forcing the retina against the back of the eye.  The body gradually replaces the gas bubble with fluid.


The greater the degree of detachment, the less vision may return after treatment.  It may take many months for vision to improve.  In some cases, vision may never be recovered.


What can be done to protect vision?

Using protective eyewear may help prevent trauma that could lead to retinal detachment.  Frequent eye exams will increase chances of early detection of a torn retina.  A detached retina is very serious and needs to be reattached quickly to prevent complete vision loss.  An individual experiencing loss or impairment of vision or any of the symptoms associated with a detached or torn retina, should see an eye care professional as soon as possible.