What is a Retinal Detachment?

What is retinal detachment?

The retina is the layer in the back of the eye that is made up of nerves and blood vessels that allows you to see. A retinal detachment is formed when the retina separates from the wall in the back of the eye. This pull of the retina could lead to permanent vision loss if not treated properly.

What are some symptoms of retinal detachment?

A sudden increase in the number of floaters or flashes of light are symptoms that may be a prelude to retinal detachment. Sudden vision loss or a “curtain” over your vision are also signs of a retinal detachment. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with Dr. Notaro today. She has worked with many patients that have retinal detachments for over 20 years.


An Image of a Normal Retina








An Image of a Retinal Detachment
An Image of a Retinal Detachment after Surgery







Are there different types of retinal detachments?

Yes! There are three main types of retinal detachments―rhegmatogenous, tractional, and exudative retinal detachments.

  • Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment – This type of retinal detachment is the most common. It is caused by fluid passing through a tear in the retina and detaching it from the back wall of the eye.
  • Tractional retinal detachment – This type of retinal detachment commonly occurs from diabetes and other conditions. It is formed when scar tissue grows on the retina then starts to pull the retina away from the wall.
  • Exudative retinal detachments – This type of retinal detachment is the least common and occurs typically with abnormal inflammation or excessive leakage. It is caused by a leakage of fluid underneath the retina without a tear in the retina.

Who is at risk for retinal detachments?

Retinal detachments have been found to be more common in men than women. As people advance more in age, they are more likely to have detachments. People that are extremely nearsighted and have had cataract surgery are more likely to have detachments. The chances of having a retinal detachment increases if there is a family history or other eye diseases. Eye injuries or retinal detachments in a fellow eye also are also risk factors for retinal detachments.

Is there any treatment for retinal detachment?

There are some treatments for retinal detachments and retinal tears! Tears can be treated with laser surgery or a freezing treatment known as cryopexy. Both act to create seals around the torn area, in the hopes of preventing the occurrence of retinal detachment.

There are three main procedures that are used to treat retinal detachments―scleral buckle, vitrectomy, and pneumatic retinopexy.

The scleral buckle surgery uses a band that is placed around the outside of the wall of the eye in order to move the wall closer to the tear. The tear is then frozen to seal it. Fluid under the retina is removed at this time as well. Check out this video to see an example of this surgery! 

Vitrectomy surgery places three tiny incisions into the eye in order to remove the the jelly from inside the eye. At this time, the fluid from under the retina is also drained and the tears are either lasered or frozen shut. The eye is then filled with a gas bubble to hold it in place during healing. Check out this video!

With pneumatic retinopexy, a gas bubble is injected in to the patient’s eye. The bubble is then moved over the tear by movement of a specific head posture where the tear is then sealed with a laser or freezing treatment. Check out this video!

The use of these surgeries is intended to attach the retina back to the wall of the eye. Visual results of these surgeries are generally best if the detachment is found and treated early.  If you are experiencing symptoms of a retinal detachment, DON’T WAIT! Call Dr. Notaro to schedule an appointment. She has worked with many patients with retinal detachments over the past 20 years.



Video References