What is retinal detachment?

What is retinal detachment?

08 September 2022

Retinal detachment is a serious eye condition that occurs when the retina - a layer of tissue at the back of the eye that processes light - separates from the surrounding tissue.

Because the retina cannot function properly when this occurs, you could suffer permanent vision loss if it is not treated immediately.

A detached retina is painless and can occur without warning. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Flashes of light
  • Floaters (tiny threads in your vision)
  • Darkness or a "curtain" over your vision, including the center or sides.

There are three main types of retinal detachment:

Regmatogenous. This is the most common type. It is caused by a tear in the retina, usually due to advanced age. The vitreous gel that fills the eyeball detaches from the retina. It can also be caused by an eye injury, surgery or myopia.

Traction. Occurs when scar tissue separates from the retina, usually because diabetes has damaged the blood vessels in the back of the eye.

Exudative. Occurs when fluid accumulates behind the retina, but there is no tear. The fluid separates the retina from the surrounding tissue. The most common causes are leaking blood vessels, and swelling due to injury, inflammation or age-related macular degeneration.

Retinal detachment is more likely to occur as you age or if you have:

  • Severe nearsightedness
  • An eye injury
  • A family history of retinal detachment
  • Reticular degeneration (thinning of the edges of the retina)
  • Diabetic retinopathy (damaged blood vessels in the retina due to diabetes)
  • Posterior vitreous detachment
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