A detached or torn retina is a serious but relatively rare condition of the eye, which requires emergency treatment to prevent permanent vision loss.
Your retina is the innermost layer at the back of your eye. The retina can become detached from its underlying layer, the choroid, the blood vessels of which feed the retina. If this happens, vision in the affected region is lost. It is also possible to tear the retina, which lets fluid into the space between the choroid and the retina, again affecting vision.
Some people are more likely to suffer from retinal detachment than others:
• People with a family history of the condition
• Very short-sighted people
• People who receive a blow to or around the eye
A detached retina is painless, so the first signs you will notice are changes in your vision, such as:
• An increase in the number of floaters. Floaters are small specks you see floating in front of your eyes. They are very common and you will notice them most when looking at light backgrounds or if you feel light headed. Floaters don’t do any harm so are generally nothing to worry about, but if you notice a sudden increase it’s important to get advice, as they may be an early sign of retinal detachment
• Flashing lights. Often caused by something else, like a migraine, but if they last for over an hour they may be a sign of retinal detachment
• Loss of vision, whether in part or full. This can be like a curtain falling over part of your eye
• A change or blurring in your vision. The lens and cornea in your eye focus the image on the retina. If your retina has moved, the image will be blurred
Any of these symptoms on their own may indicate other conditions rather than a detached retina, but if any occur it is a good idea to see your Doctor or Optometrist as soon as possible.
If your retina becomes detached or torn, you will need surgery to repair it to restore or stop any loss of vision.
A partial detachment can be treated by a special type of laser treatment called photocoagulation. This fuses the retina to the underlying layer, stopping any fluids that could damage the retina from getting in.
Treatment can also involve a technique called scleral buckling. Silicone bands are sewn to the outside of the eyeball to gently hold the wall of the eye against the retina, allowing it to reattach itself.
If you are worried you may have a detached or torn retina, contact your Optometrist or Doctor immediately, if they are unavailable visit your nearest A&E department.