What Are the Signs of Retinal Detachment?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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The retina is a layer of tissue found at the back of the eye which helps to transmit visual information to the brain. If the retina becomes torn, pressure created by the fluid naturally found within the eye can cause it to separate from the nerves and blood vessels to which it is normally attached. This condition, known as retinal detachment, can cause vision loss if left untreated. Learning to recognize the signs of retinal detachment, such as specks or flashes in the visual field, can help prevent permanent vision damage.

Retinal detachment usually begins when the retina becomes torn. Tearing of this tissue can be caused by a head injury, a medical condition such as diabetes, or even by simple nearsightedness. Sometimes it becomes torn when the layer of gel which is naturally attached to it begins to pull away, an event that may be brought on by sudden trauma to the eye or by aging. If this gel pulls away very forcefully, it can create a hole in the retina. No matter its cause, once a retinal tear exists, the area behind it can fill with eye fluid, and the pressure created by that fluid can cause the retina itself to separate from the nerves and vessels to which it is normally attached.


It is important to be able to recognize the signs of retinal detachment, as an untreated detachment can quickly lead to permanent vision loss. One of the most common signs of retinal detachment is the appearance of a large number of “floaters,” or specks, across the visual field. These “floaters” may become more visible when the affected eye is closed.

Many people with a retinal detachment also perceive flashes of light in their visual field. These flashes may resemble a light being quickly turned on and off or a camera flash. Often, the flashes are detected at the outer edges of the visual field. Another commonly experienced sign of retinal detachment is the perception of a shade over one part of the visual field. In other words, it might suddenly seem that one part of the visual field has become darker than the rest of the field.

Experiencing one or more of these common signs of retinal detachment does not necessarily mean that one has the condition. As an untreated detachment can quickly lead to permanent vision loss, however, so ignoring these signs is generally not advisable. Those who believe they may be experiencing one or more signs of retinal detachment should consult an optometrist.


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