What is retinal detachment?

Definition: 'Rhegmatogenous' retinal detachments occur when the retina peels off the back of the eye due to a retinal tear or hole. 'Tractional' retinal detachments occur due to the pulling of the retina by the 'vitreous' gel inside the eye. Tractional retinal detachments occur typically in diabetes and sickle cell disease.

Symptoms: Most patients with a new retinal tear or detachment will experience new floaters in their vision and occasional flashing lights which lasts for a few seconds. This can be accompanied by a permanent shadow in their vision which usually signifies a retinal detachment. Some may have longstanding retinal detachments/tears which will not be noticed until the retinal detachment crosses the middle of the retina.

At risk patients: Most patients with rhegmatogenous retinal detachment are 'myopic' or short-sighted. Other risk factors including cataract surgery and previous trauma to the eye.

Treatment:  Most retinal tears can be treated by laser or cryotherapy (freeezing treatment). Some holes/tears do not need treatment because the eye will naturally try to repair them by scarring. However, large tears and/or retinal detachments will need surgery. There are many ways to repair a retinal detachment and your surgeon will explain these to you in detail and why he/she has chosen this method instead of the others.

Outcome: If it is only a retinal tear, then it is likely that your vision will stay the same and the treatment will unlikely cause any change in your vision. A rhegmatogenous retinal detachment which has not affected the centre of the vision should be repaired to prevent it progressing to the centre. This is because if it does affect the centre, the outcome despite successful surgery is not as good. The success rate of retinal detachment surgery is usually 85-90% from a single operation. More complicated and long standing retinal detachments will have a lower success rate, but it is usually possible to put the retina back to onto the back of the eye with a few operations. Your LEC surgeon will discuss the likely outcome with you before your surgery.