Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Retinal detachment

3-minute read

Retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If you think you have retinal detachment, go to an emergency department immediately or call triple zero (000).

Key facts

  • Retinal detachment is when your retina separates from your eyeball.
  • Retinal detachment can be caused by ageing, an eye injury or diabetic retinopathy.
  • If your retina is damaged, you can lose your vision. Early treatment for retinal detachment can prevent vision loss.

What is retinal detachment?

The retina is a layer of tissue found at the back of your eye. The retina controls how you see. Retinal detachment is when your retina separates from your eyeball.

What are the symptoms of retinal detachment?

Symptoms of a detached retina are:

  • light flashes
  • moving specks or cobwebs (floaters) in one eye
  • blurred vision
  • seeing an empty circle in front of you
  • changes to your peripheral vision
  • shadows appearing in your vision (often described as a ‘shadow’ or a ‘curtain coming down’ over your vision)

Some people lose their vision suddenly.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes retinal detachment?

Retinal detachment is caused by:

Eye surgery, near-sightedness and macular degeneration can increase the risk of retinal detachment.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have symptoms of retinal detachment, see a doctor or optometrist at once.

How is retinal detachment diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions and examine your eyes. They may use drops to dilate (widen) your pupil, to see your retina better.

How is retinal detachment treated?

Retinal holes and tears can be treated by an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) with laser or freezing. This can be done in their clinic rooms.

However, surgery to reattach a detached retina is done in an operating theatre.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Can retinal detachment be prevented?

Because retinal detachment is mostly caused by ageing, it cannot be prevented.

However, you can take steps to reduce your risk related to eye injury. Wear protective eyewear when doing sports or other risky activities.

Complications of retinal detachment

If your retina is damaged, you can lose your vision. Early treatment for retinal detachment can prevent vision loss.

Resources and support

If you have vision loss, you can contact Vision Australia (1300 84 74 66) for information and support.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Retinal detachment - Better Health Channel

If a detached retina is not treated, it can lead to total blindness.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Retinal detachment -

Retinal detachment (detached retina) is a medical emergency when the retina becomes separated from the inside of the eye.  Warning signs include a sudden increase in floaters or flashes. Seek immediate medical attention. This could save your sight.

Read more on myDr website

Glossary of Eye Conditions | Fred Hollows Foundation

Glaucoma, Cataract and Trachoma are just a few examples of many eye conditions and diseases that exist worldwide. Learn more with a list of common eye conditions and terms.

Read more on Fred Hollows Foundation website

Eye floaters - Better Health Channel

Some eye floaters look like small dots, while others appear like threads or little hairy clumps.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Retinopathy in diabetes -

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes. People with retinopathy have damaged blood vessels in the retina.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.