Retinal detachment

Retinal detachment occurs when the thin lining at the back of your eye begins to pull away from the blood vessels that supply it.

What is a detached retina?

Retinal detachment occurs when the delicate layer of nerves at the back of your eye (the retina) begins to pull away from the blood vessels that supply it with oxygen. A detached retina usually requires emergency surgery, as it can potentially lead to a permanent loss of vision if left untreated for a period of time.

The retina is many layers of interconnected nerve cells that lines the inside of the eye. It is sensitive to light (like the film in a camera) and you need it to be able to see properly.

Retinas detach because they have one or more tears or holes in them. These breaks in the retina allow fluid to pass underneath them. This fluid causes the retina to become separated from the supporting and nourishing tissues underneath it. Small blood vessels might also be bleeding into the vitreous humour (the jelly-like substance that fills the eye), which might cause further clouding of the vision. Without treatment, retinal detachment can often lead to blindness in the affected eye.

What are the symptoms of a detached retina?

Although retinal detachment is painless, there are a number of visual symptoms which should alert you to the issue before it advances.

Warning signs of retinal detachment include the appearance of floaters. These are shapes, which can range from small dots to irregularly shaped strands, that drift across your field of vision. As well as floaters, you may also experience blurring of vision, seeing flashes of light in either one or both eyes, and a gradual reduction in your peripheral vision. Some people will also see a curtain-like shadow descending over their field of vision.

Retinal detachment requires urgent medical attention

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is important to immediately seek medical attention, ideally within 24-48 hours, to exclude a retinal tear or a retinal detachment and to minimise the long-term effects of retinal detachment on vision if it is present.

What causes retinal detachment?

Most retinal detachments are associated or caused by a normal and natural ageing process in the eye. This process is known as a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) and sadly, this cannot be prevented. It is very rare that retinal detachment is caused by anything that you have done.

Anyone can develop a retinal detachment at any time, but certain people are at higher risk than others. These include people who are short sighted, those who have had cataract surgery in the past, and those who have recently suffered a severe direct blow to the eye. Some types of retinal detachments can run in families, but these hereditary retinal detachments are rare.

Retinal detachment treatment is available at Moorfields Private

You can self-fund or use private medical insurance to fund your treatment.

View Moorfields Private