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. Retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss. Retinal tears or retinal breaks are small areas of the retina that are torn. These areas can lead to retinal detachment.
The vitreous fluid shrinks as we age. This is a normal process that usually does not cause retinal damage. However, inflammation or myopia (near-sightedness) may cause the vitreous to pull away and can lead to a detached retina. Increased risk of retinal tears and detachment includes:
Retinal detachment itself is painless. If part of the retina detaches, it will not function properly. But warning signs almost always appear before it occurs or has advanced, such as:
A detached retina cannot be seen from the outside of the eye. The only way to diagnose retinal tears is through a comprehensive eye examination. Your eye doctor will use a lighted magnification instrument to view the inside of your eye. Other diagnostic instruments include certain types of contact lenses, a slit lamp or ultrasound.
If your retina is only torn, prompt treatment may prevent detachment. The type of procedure recommended will depend on several factors, including how severe it is. There are a number of options available: