Retinal Detachment Defined
What is retinal detachment?
The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye and sends visual messages through the optic nerve to the brain. When the retina detaches, it is lifted or pulled from its normal position. If not promptly treated, retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.
In some cases there may be small areas of the retina that are torn. These areas, called retinal tears or retinal breaks, can lead to retinal detachment.
Frequently Asked Questions about Retinal Detachment
What are the different types of retinal detachment?
There are three different types of retinal detachment:
Rhegmatogenous [reg-ma-TAH-jenous] -- A tear or break in the retina allows fluid to get under the retina and separate it from the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), the pigmented cell layer that nourishes the retina. These types of retinal detachments are the most common.
Tractional -- In this type of detachment, scar tissue on the retina's surface contracts and causes the retina to separate from the RPE. This type of detachment is less common.
Exudative -- Frequently caused by retinal diseases, including inflammatory disorders and injury/trauma to the eye. In this type, fluid leaks into the area underneath the retina, but there are no tears or breaks in the retina.
Causes and Risk Factors
Who is at risk for retinal detachment?
A retinal detachment can occur at any age, but it is more common in people over age 40. It affects men more than women, and Whites more than African Americans.
A retinal detachment is also more likely to occur in people who:
-Are extremely nearsighted
-Have had a retinal detachment in the other eye
-Have a family history of retinal detachment
-Have had cataract surgery
-Have other eye diseases or disorders, such as retinoschisis, uveitis, degenerative myopia, or lattice
-Have had an eye injury
Symptoms and Detection
What are the symptoms of retinal detachment?
Symptoms include a sudden or gradual increase in either the number of floaters, which are little "cobwebs" or specks that float about in your field of vision, and/or light flashes in the eye. Another symptom is the appearance of a curtain over the field of vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of a retinal detachment should see an eye care professional immediately.