Retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If you think you have retinal detachment, go to an emergency department immediately or call triple zero (000).
- 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.
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What causes retinal detachment?
Retinal detachment is caused by:
- eye injury
- diabetic retinopathy
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.
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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.
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Last reviewed: October 2022