Retinal detachment is separation of the retina from the tissues under it. (The retina is the lining at the back of the eye that senses light coming into the eye.) A retinal detachment is very serious and needs to be treated promptly to save your vision.
There are 3 main types of retinal detachment.
If you have a retinal detachment caused by holes or tears, the most common first symptom is seeing a lot of new flashes and floaters. Many people have a gradual loss of peripheral (side) vision without pain. Often the loss of vision appears like a curtain that is slowly being pulled across the front of the eye. If not treated, your vision becomes dark all over. This may take hours or months.
In the other types of retinal detachment, you may have a gradual vision loss over a long period of time.
Your eye care provider will ask about your symptoms. He or she will dilate your pupils using drops and use a special lens and lighted instrument to examine the inside of your eyes. A detached retina cannot be seen without these special instruments. Therefore, you should see an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eyes) as soon as you think you have a problem with your vision.
In some cases, an ultrasound of the eye is needed.
Exudative retinal detachment is treated by treating the underlying disease and usually does not need surgery.
Other types of retinal detachment are usually treated with surgery. There are 3 main ways to treat the problem.
When you have surgery, your eye is numbed and you may be given a sedative or be put in a deep sleep with a general anesthetic. For most of the procedures, you can go home the same day. While you recover, you will usually need to keep your head in a certain position (such as face down or to one side) for several days or weeks so your retina attaches properly. Your provider will tell you what position to rest your head in, how long you need to do this each day, and for how many days or weeks. There are companies that sell special furniture that can help you keep your head positioned comfortably—ask your provider for more information.
You may need other minor procedures as well. Your eye care provider will check your eyes often.
Your vision will probably be very blurry after surgery. It may take several weeks or months for the blurriness to go away.
Surgery to repair a detached retina is successful in most cases. However, because the retina is very delicate and complex, there is almost always some degree of permanent damage.
Around 10 to 15% of people who have surgery will need more surgery. Sometimes scar tissue forms or there is trouble with recovery. If your vision gets worse or you start having new vision problems after surgery, let your provider know. Rarely, a retinal detachment cannot be repaired successfully due to severe scarring.
Follow your provider's instructions after surgery to help your eye heal. You will need to:
Several weeks after surgery, after your eye has completely healed, you can have your eyeglasses prescription checked to see if you need to change it.
If you have had retinal detachment in one eye, your risk of retinal detachment in the other eye is greater. See your eye care provider regularly so that any problems in your other eye can be corrected before they become more serious.
If you are very nearsighted or have a family history of retinal detachments, see your eye care provider regularly. While you cannot prevent some changes in your eyes, finding and treating holes and tears promptly helps prevent retinal detachment.