Detached and Torn Retina

Lying in the back of the eye is the retina, a multi-layered tissue responsible for detecting visual images and transmitting them to the brain. The retina is similar to the film inside a camera in that it records an image that is later “developed” by the brain.

A retinal detachment occurs when the retina pulls away from the back of the eye; a tear occurs when the retina is only partially disconnected.

Retinal tears and detachments can have many causes:

  • Vitreous shrinks naturally with age and pulls away from the retina
  • External injury to the eye
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Small tears in the retina that allow liquid to seep through
  • Tumors
  • Sometimes a detachment occurs spontaneously

Following a retinal detachment, unusual types of images may appear. These include flashing lights or floaters. These symptoms, however, can also be present without a retinal detachment, so an immediate exam is necessary to determine the cause.

If the retina does not fully detach but only tears, a laser or freezing technique called cryotherapy is used to seal the tear. If the retina is fully detached, surgery is required.