Retinal Detachment

What is a retinal detachment?

A retinal detachment is a serious eye disease that involves the retina (back of the eye) coming away from its blood supply. There are 3 main types.


  1. Rhegmatogenous - this is the most common type of retinal detachment and is caused by the jelly of the eye coming away from the back of the eye (normal aging change for most people). In some people, when this process happens (posterior vitreous detachment), a retinal tear can happen. If liquid jelly gets behind the tear, this results in a retinal detachment. Normally the retina gets its blood supply from the back of the eye, so the longer the retina is detached, the more vision is permanently damaged.
  2. Tractional - this is less common and is due to scar tissue pulling the retina away from its normal position (diabetic eye disease is the most common cause of this type)
  3. Exudative - this fluid under the retina is caused by inflammatory diseases inside the eye

What are symptoms of a retinal detachment?

  • Flashes and floaters
  • Blurry vision
  • Veil or a shadow in the vision

How is retinal detachment diagnosed?

Retinal detachment is diagnosed by an eye optometrist or ophthalmologist using specialized eye equipment (slit lamp examination, and indirect ophthalmoscopy)

How is retinal detachment treated?

Retinal detachments are treated with surgery, and the sooner they are fixed, the better the likelihood for good vision. There are 3 main types of surgery. One of these methods, or a combination of them,  may be needed to fix the retinal detachment, depending on the type and severity of the case.

  1. Pneumatic retinopexy - this involves injecting a gas bubble into the eye, and doing laser to fix the tear. The gas bubble acts to stop any more liquid jelly from getting behind the tear while the laser seals the tear. This is the easiest surgery from the patient's perspective.
  2. Scleral buckle - this is a bigger operation that involves suturing a small plastic “belt buckle” around the eye to indent the eye. The “indentation” relieves traction on the tears causing the retinal detachment.
  3. Vitrectomy - the jelly cavity of the eye is surgically removed. This technique is used mainly when there is scar tissue to be removed.