What is retinal detachment? 

The retina is a thin layer of tissue that lines the inner posterior portion of the eye. It consists of cells called photoreceptors (rods and cones). These cells transmit light from the eye to the brain allowing us to see. A retinal detachment occurs when the retina partially or completely peels away from the back of the eye. Once a detachment occurs, retinal function decreases, and light signals cannot get back to the brain to be processed into seeing. Depending on the severity of the detachment, vision loss can be severe and permanent. 

What are the causes of retinal detachment? 

There are numerous causes of a retinal detachment. Some risk factors include: injury to the eye, certain eye diseases, eye surgery, and a high degree of nearsightedness (myopia). Some patients may have thinned retinal areas that increase the chance of a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment can occur years after an eye injury. 

What are the symptoms of retinal detachment? 

Symptoms of retinal detachment usually consist of seeing flashing lights, floating spots, and/or an overall decrease in vision. Patients sometimes describe changes in vision as a curtain or veil moving across their vision. Sometimes there are no symptoms. 

How do you treat retinal detachment? 

If an optometrist detects a retinal detachment during the eye health examination, the patient will be referred to an ophthalmologist. Treating a retinal detachment often involves surgery. The goal of surgery is to reattach the affected retina and prevent further vision loss. Areas of retinal weakening without detachment, such as retinal holes or tears, may involve stabilizing the retina using freezing or a laser treatment (not the same laser used for laser eye surgery) to decrease the chance of a retinal detachment. The longer a patient waits to have a retinal detachment repaired, usually the lower the success rate of surgery. 

How do you prevent retinal detachment? 

Often, a retinal detachment will occur spontaneously with no prior warning signs. An optometrist can detect asymptomatic retinal holes, tears and detachments and refer for preventative treatment.


“Retinal Detachment” Ontario Association of Optometrists, Retrieved 13 June 2019. <https://www.optom.on.ca/OAO/Patients/Library/Retinal_detachment.aspx>