Retinal detachment

A retinal detachment is a serious emergency eye conditions. It affects approximately 1 in 10,000 of the population. It can happen spontaneously or as a result of trauma to the eye or head. It is more common amongst older people and those who are short-sighted.

The retinal tissue is the sensitive lining at the back of the eye, which converts light into nerve signals which pass through to the brain and help you to “see” the image.

The retina is composed of two layers and a detachment occurs when the layers become separated. This is an emergency condition which if left untreated can result in severe sight loss in the affected eye.

Symptoms associated with a detachment of the retina include vision loss in one eye, often described by the patient as a veil or a shadow spreading across the field of vision. Patients may also experience a sudden increase in flashing lights or floaters in their vision. There is no pain associated with a retinal detachment unless the cause of the detachment is ocular trauma.

Although you may experience some of these visual symptoms as you get older without having any underlying eye problem requiring treatment, the sudden appearance of a ‘large number of floaters or flashing lights’ is often an indication of a retinal detachment.

If the retinal detachment involves the macula (the central area of the retina which is responsible for fine vision) then treatment of the problem is even more urgent.

If you begin to experience these symptoms you should consult your optometrist or GP immediately.