Retinal detachment

From Academic Kids

Retinal detachment is a disorder of the eye in which the retina peels away from its underlying layer of support tissue.

The retina is a thin disc-shaped layer of light-sensitive tissue on the back wall of the eye. Its job is to translate what we see into neural impulses and send them to the brain via the optic nerve. Occasionally, injury or trauma to the eye or head may cause a small tear in the retina, which allows fluid to seep through, and peel it away like a bubble in wallpaper. Detachment is most frequent in the middle-aged or elderly population, and in those with extreme myopia, as their retinas are unusually thin to begin with. Retinal detachment is also an uncommon complication of surgeries such as those used to treat cataracts.


People who suffer from retinal detachment usually feel no pain at all. They may experience:

  • severely blurred vision (reduced visual acuity)
  • flashes of light
  • a sudden dramatic increase in the number of floaters
  • the impression that a veil or curtain was drawn over the field of vision
  • straight lines (scale, edge of the wall, road, etc.) that suddenly appear curved (positive [Amsler grid (] test)
  • acute visual loss


There are several ways of treating a detached retina. One way is to inject silicone oil or a gas bubble (pneumatic retinopexy) into the eye to push the retina smoothly back into place. Cryotherapy or laser treatments can then permanently reattach it. If the gas bubble is used, patients may have to keep their heads tilted for several days to more effectively press it against the retina.

Another treatment (a scleral buckle procedure) uses very fine silicone bands that are sewed to the outside of the eyeball so they push the wall of the eye against the detached retina area. The bands do not usually have to be removed.

After treatment, patients gradually regain their vision, although the visual acuity may not be as good as it was prior to the detachment, particularly if the macula was involved in the area of detachment. However, if left untreated, total blindness can occur in a matter of days.

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