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Retinal Detachment


Retinal detachment occurs when part or all of the retina—the nerve layer at the back of the eye—comes off (detaches from) the back of the eye. This can lead to severe vision loss or blindness.

A retina can detach as a result of aging, an eye injury, inflammation, and some diseases such as diabetes. Although retinal detachment can occur at any age, it is most common in older adults.

When a retinal detachment occurs, the person may notice:

  • A new shadow or curtain effect across part of the visual field that does not go away. Because detachments usually affect peripheral (side) vision first, the person may not notice a problem until the detachment has gotten bigger.
  • New or sudden vision loss. Vision loss caused by retinal detachment tends to get worse over time. Sudden vision loss is a medical emergency.

Warning signs that a person may soon have a retinal detachment include:

  • Floaters in the field of vision. Floaters appear as dark specks, globs, strings, or dots that seem to drift through the field of vision. Floaters are often harmless, but a new floater or a shower of floaters needs to be evaluated by a doctor.
  • Flashes of light or sparks. Like floaters, flashes of light are often harmless but should be evaluated.

Retinal detachment may require immediate surgery to prevent permanent vision loss. Surgery can repair most retinal detachments and restore good vision in many cases.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerCarol L. Karp, MD - Ophthalmology
Last RevisedAugust 7, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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