Retinal detachment

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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 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.

What are the detached retina symptoms?

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.

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 are the different types of retinal detachment treatment?

If the examination by the eye surgeon and associated tests confirm that you have a detached retina or you have experienced a retinal tear, you will need to be referred to hospital to undergo retinal detachment surgery or retinal laser. The surgical procedure involves sealing the retinal holes and reattaching your retina. A detached retina operation may involve replacing the jelly in your eye with a bubble of gas to push the retina back or attaching a small band over your eye to push your retina closer to the wall of your eye. The retinal tear or hole that caused the retinal detachment can be sealed by using freezing or laser treatments, depending on the type of tear or retinal detachment surgery.

The treatment is performed under local anaesthetic to minimise discomfort and you usually won’t need to stay overnight in the hospital. Detached retina recovery generally takes between 2-6 weeks, but this varies depending on the individual and the specific case. It is normal to experience blurred vision after retinal detachment surgery. You may also have some redness and discomfort of your eye, for which you can take paracetamol. If your pain or blurred vision worsens after the operation, you should contact the hospital as you may require further treatment.

You may need to book time off work during your recovery and avoid driving for a while. Additionally, if a gas bubble was put into your eye as part of the retinal detachment treatment, you may be advised to avoid flying for fixed period of time.

Why choose Moorfields Private?

All patients of Moorfields Private receive the highest quality of care, with access to the top eye surgeons in the country. All our experienced surgeons hold accredited consultant positions at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and you can choose your preferred consultant.

We pride ourselves on delivering care with complete continuity. Your chosen consultant will carry out all your treatment, from the initial consultation to your discharge and follow up care, to give you complete confidence and peace of mind.

Further information

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Retinal detachment consultants

A picture of Mr Rajesh Deshmukh

Mr Rajesh Deshmukh


Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

13.05.2020

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