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Definition Return to top
Retinal detachment is a separation of the light-sensitive membrane in the back of the eye (the retina) from its supporting layers.
Causes Return to top
The retina is a transparent tissue in the back of the eye. It helps you see the images that are focused on it by the cornea and the lens. Retinal detachments are often associated with a tear or hole in the retina through which eye fluids may leak. This causes separation of the retina from the underlying tissues.
Retinal detachment often occurs on its own without an underlying cause. However, it may also be caused by trauma, diabetes, an inflammatory disorder. Sometimes it may be caused by a related condition called posterior vitreous detachment.
During a retinal detachment, bleeding from small retinal blood vessels may cloud the interior of the eye, which is normally filled with vitreous fluid. Central vision becomes severely affected if the macula, the part of the retina responsible for fine vision, becomes detached.
The risk factors are previous eye surgery, nearsightedness, a family history of retinal detachment, uncontrolled diabetes, and trauma. Approximately 10,000 people per year have a retinal detachment.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Tests will be done to check the retina and pupil response and your ability to see colors properly. These may include:
Treatment Return to top
Most patients with a retinal detachment will need surgery, either immediately or after a short period of time. (However, surgery may not be needed if you do not have symptoms or have had the detachment for a while.)
Types of surgery include:
Laser surgey is performed after pneumatic retinopexy to permanently fix it in place. This is often done in a doctor's office.
More extensive detachments may require surgery in an operating room. Such procedures include:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome depends upon the location and extent of the detachment and early treatment. If the macula has not detached, the results of treatment can be excellent. Most retinal detachments can be repaired, but not all of them.
Possible Complications Return to top
The unsuccessful reattachment of the retina results in loss of vision.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
A retinal detachment is an urgent problem that requires medical attention within 24 hours of the first symptoms.
Prevention Return to top
Use protective eye wear to prevent eye trauma. Control your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes. See your eye care specialist at least yearly, especially if you have risk factors for retinal detachment.
References Return to top
Costarides AP. Elevated intraocular pressure following vitreoretinal surgery. Ophthalmol Clin North Am. Dec 2004; 17(4): 507-12, v.
Fay A. Diseases of the Visual System. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 449.
Yanoff M, Duker JS, Augsburger JJ, et al. Ophthalmology. 2nd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2004:786-791.Update Date: 8/27/2008 Updated by: Manju Subramanian, MD, Assistant Professor in Ophthalmology, Vitreoretinal Disease and Surgery, Boston University Eye Associates, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.