Retinal detachment

Retinal detachment describes an emergency situation in which a critical layer of tissue (the retina) at the back of the eye pulls away from the layer of blood vessels that provides it with oxygen and nourishment.

Retinal detachment leaves the retinal cells lacking oxygen. The longer retinal detachment goes untreated, the greater your risk of permanent vision loss in the affected eye.

Fortunately, retinal detachment often has symptoms that are clear warning signs. Early diagnosis and treatment of retinal detachment can save your vision. If you suspect you may have a retinal detachment, contact an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) as soon as warning signs appear.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Prevention

Retinal detachment itself is painless, but retinal detachment warning signs and symptoms almost always appear before it occurs or has advanced. Retinal detachment symptoms may include:

  • The sudden appearance of many floaters — small bits of debris in your field of vision that look like spots, hairs or strings and seem to float before your eyes
  • Sudden flashes of light in the affected eye
  • A shadow or curtain over a portion of your visual field that develops as the detachment progresses

When to see a doctor

Because retinal detachment is an emergency situation in which you can permanently lose your vision, you should always seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of its symptoms.

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