The retina is the photosensitive film at the back of the eye that turns light into electrical signals that are carried to the brain to allow us to see. The retina can become detached from the wall of the eye. There are a number of different causes.
A ‘rhegmatogenous’ retinal detachment is the commonest form, when a tear in the retina, caused because of posterior vitreous detachment, allows fluid from the jelly cavity underneath the retina. Patients may note flashes of light and black floaters initially when the tear is forming. This can then proceed to a gradually increasing shadow coming across the vision from the periphery. This is a sight threatening emergency.
If the retinal detachment involves the centre of the vision (the macula) then the quality of the vision will usually be permanently damaged. It is important therefore important to try to operate on a retinal detachment before the macular becomes detached. If the macula is off, surgery will still be performed and much vision recovered but it less imperative that it is performed on an emergency basis.
There are a number of surgical approaches and the technique used will depend on both surgical preference, age of patient, and the exact type of retinal detachment.