Retinal detachment occurs when the retina pulls away from its normal position.  This is an emergency situation because left untreated it can cause permanent vision loss. 

Retinal detachment is painless when it occurs.  There are some warning signs that a retinal detachment has occurred.  A sudden appearance of floaters, flashes of light in one or both eyes, blurred vision, reduced peripheral vision, or a curtain like shadow over the field of vision. 


Types Of Retinal Detachment

There are three different types of retinal detachment. 

The most common one is Rhegmatogenous.  This is mostly caused by aging.  Being over the age of 50 increases your risk of retinal detachment.  Rhegmatogenous is when a hole or tear in the retina allows fluid to pass through and collect underneath the retina.  As the fluid builds up it causes the retina to pull away.  Where the retina detaches the area loses blood supply and stops working which causes vision loss. 

Tractional is another type of retinal detachment, which is usually seen in people with poorly controlled diabetes or other health conditions that aren’t managed.  Tractional retinal detachment is caused by scar tissue that grows on the retina’s surface causing the retina to pull away. 

The third type is exudative.  This is when fluid builds up behind the retina but there are no tears or holes.  This is usually caused by age-related macular degeneration, injury to the eye, tumors, or having an inflammatory disorder.  


Treatment Options

Surgery is usually required to reattach your retina.  There is a 90% success rate for reattachment with only one surgery.  Your vision may take a few weeks to fully get better.  Without treatment permanent vision loss will occur. 

There are three types of surgeries you can have for a retinal detachment.  The kind of surgery you have depends on how severe the tear is, how many tears there are, and where the tear is.  In some cases you may need more than one type of surgery at once.  The three types are Pneumatic retinopexy, scleral buckle, and vitrectomy.  

Pneumatic Retinopexy

A pneumatic retinopexy is when your doctor will inject a small air bubble into your eye.  This air bubble will push the retina back into place allowing the doctor to be able to laser or freeze treatment any tears, or holes.  This procedure can usually be done in an eye doctor’s office. 

When the procedure happens the doctor will numb your eye, insert a needle into your eye and remove a small amount of fluid.  They will then inject a small amount of air in your eye which forms a bubble.  After the retina has been pushed back into place they will laser or freeze treatment to repair.  The bubble will disappear on its own, but you may be able to see if for a while in your peripheral vision. 

After surgery you may need to hold your head in a certain position to keep the bubble from moving in the wrong spot.  You will also need to avoid flying in an airplane, intense exercise, or lifting heavy objects.  

Scleral Buckle

Scleral buckle is another procedure to help repair a retinal detachment.  During this procedure you are put under anesthesia, so you will have no memory of it after the surgery is done.  In this surgery the doctor will fit a band around the sclera, or white part of your eye.  This band will gently push your eye inwards toward the retina.  Then the doctor will freeze treatment or laser repair your retina. 

After this surgery you may need to wear an eye patch or eye shield for a day or two.  This surgery can be painful, so having a little pain afterwards is normal.  After surgery it is important to avoid intense exercise or heavy lifting.  


A vitrectomy procedure is very similar to a pneumatic retinopexy.  It is just a longer surgery that is usually done in a hospital instead of in the doctor’s office.  



Recovery is usually 2-4 weeks.  It will take some time to see what vision is recovered after surgery.  Vision may not completely come back.  It is important to follow any follow up care instructions your doctor gives you.  Your doctor may put eye drops in your eye after surgery to help stop infections from occurring.  If your eye is swollen after surgery you can ice your eye for 10-20 minute increments until the swelling goes down.  Wear sunglasses outside after your procedure.  If your eye is painful over the counter pain medications can usually help with the pain.  It is unlikely you will need anything stronger than that.  



Some people never recover the vision lost after a retinal detachment.  You may have to change your lifestyle.  Glasses may be needed.  Proper lighting in your home to help you be able to see better.  Eliminating throw rugs, or tripping hazards in your home.  If you are unable to drive, find other ways to get transportation.   You may need help from electronic readers as well if vision loss is too significant. 



Retinal detachment is an emergency situation.  Left untreated you may have permanent vision loss.  Usually with surgery your retina will be reattached successfully with only one surgery.  After a few months of recovery you will see where your vision is at. 

Vision doesn’t always go back to where it used to be before the retinal detachment, but most people regain most of their vision.  In some cases your vision may be way worse than it was, which can cause you to have to change some of your lifestyle.  





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