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.

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 retinal detachment?

The retina is a thin layer of 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 holes in them, which allows 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 (the jelly-like substance in the centre of the eye), which might cause further clouding of the vision.  Without treatment, a retinal detachment usually leads to blindness in the affected eye. 

Causes of retinal detachment

Most retinal detachments occur as a natural ageing process in the eye.  It is unlikely that it would be 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 are rare. 

Treatment for retinal detachment

The treatment involves surgery.  During the operation, your eye doctor will seal the retinal holes and reattach your retina.  Your operation will be supervised by an experienced eye surgeon, who will either perform the surgery themselves or oversee a more junior surgeon who might undertake part or all of the operation.