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Retinal Detachment. Causes, Treatment And Prevention

Retinal detachment is an eye disorder which can cause permanent blindness if not treated quickly.

It happens when your retina peels away from the back of your eye, like wallpaper peeling away from a wall.

Retina contains light-sensitive tissues. These tissues work like the film in a camera.

When light falls on these tissues, they generate nerve impulses and send them to the brain which assimilates them and then interprets the information into a image.

In short, without the retina, no image signal can be sent to the brain and blindness occurs.

What Causes Retinal Detachment?

Normally, a healthy retina is securely attached to the back of the eye.

Eye Anatomy with Retinal Detachment

Occasionally, eye injury, trauma to the head, posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) or overstretching of the retina due to elongated eyeball (severe nearsightedness) may cause a tear or hole in the retina.

When the vitreous humor enters the opening, it lifts the retina off and creates separation between the retina and the choroid.

Thus causing the retina to slowly peel away from the choroid, similar to air bubbles beneath wallpaper.

Risk Factors

You are in higher risk if you have:

  • Severe myopia (elongated eyeball causes the retinas to be more tautly stretched)
  • Protruding eyeballs
  • Previous cataract surgery
  • Blunt or penetrating injury to the eye
  • Abnormal growing of blood vessels under the retina (diabetic retinopathy)


Symptoms include:

  • Flashes of light that look like sparks or flickers
  • A large number of floaters
  • A shadow or curtain that spreads from the edge of the visual field to the central vision
  • A shimmering effect

Not long ago, my mother had a series of flashes and blackout.

When we rushed her to the eye doctor, they stated that it may be RD and had to observe her for a few more days. Thankfully, nothing happened.

Early treatment of retinal detachment can save your vision. Getting to the doctor ASAP is crucial any of the symptoms above happen.


Most people with retinal detachment will require surgery to reattach the retina. 

For minor cases:

  • If there isn’t any detachment, laser can be used to seal the opening.
  • For small detachment, doctor might insert gas bubbles into vitreous position of your eye instead. As air bubbles float, they push the retina back to its original place. The tear is then seal with laser.

For severe cases:

  • Scleral buckling - one or several silicon plastic band is sewn to the sclera (white of the eyeball), pushing the wall of the eye inward against the retina, allowing the retina to reattach. The scleral buckle is very small and not visible after surgery. The side effect of this procedure is that it increases your nearsightedness.
  • Vitrectomy - involves remove the vitreous humor and replacing it with dense fluid or gas to smooth the retina into place. Even though this procedure will not increase your nearsightedness, it increases your risk of getting cataracts.

First Aid

Sometimes retinal detachment may occur suddenly but do not panic.

Below are some steps which you can take to avoid worsen the condition.

Stabilize your eye - lie down quietly and keep your eyes very still, preferably close (retina may fall back to place)

Have someone take you to eye doctor immediately but carefully.


  1. Regular eye examination at least once yearly
  2. Control blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes.
  3. Do a prompt and thorough examination ASAP (within 24 hours) if you noticed new symptoms such as sudden increase of floaters, flashes or shower of spots.
  4. If you are doing aggressive sports (such as basketball or football) , wear protective eye wear to prevent trauma to the eye or head.

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