Retinal Detachment: Symptoms & Causes

26 Oct 2023Eye Health & General Information

The human eye is a remarkable instrument, and at the core of that instrument lies the retina. This is a delicate layer of tissue at the back of the eye that converts light into the images we perceive.

But when this vital layer begins to peel away from the wall of the eye, like wallpaper coming loose, this is known as a retinal detachment.

Retinal detachments are very serious and needs to be addressed urgently, or patients may risk losing vision permanently.

Today, we’ll go over all you need to know about it, from the types of retinal detachment to the common retinal detachment causes and symptoms.

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What are the types of retinal detachment?

There are several types of retinal detachments, but the most common type which most people refer to, is known as the rhegmatogeonus type. Other types include tractional and exudative.

Rhegmatogenous Retinal Detachment

This is the most common type of retinal detachment, and the one that needs urgent surgery.

This type of retinal detachment is caused by a tear or break in the retina. The tear allows the fluid in the vitreous cavity (the ‘compartment’ in the back of the eye) to pass through the retina, and accumulate underneath the retina. This is the start of the process of retinal detachment.

As more and more fluid accumulates, the retinal detaches more, and eventually this can involve the central vision of the eye. This tends to happen in older people, which is when the vitreous humour in the eye starts to thin and liquefy.

As that happens, it shrinks and thus takes up less space in the eye, and separates its attachment from the retina. If this separation is not smooth or traumatic, it leads to the retina tearing, and then starts the process of retinal detachment.

Tractional Retinal Detachment

This retinal detachment happens when you get scar tissue on your retina and the scars grow very thick and begin to forcefully pull your retina away from the wall of the eye.

This is more commonly seen in patients with conditions such as diabetes or severe trauma to the eye. Diabetes can cause damage to the eye’s blood vessels if a person has long periods of elevated blood sugar levels.This damage then causes the scarring that leads to detachment.

Exudative Retinal Detachment 

This type of retinal detachment usually happens in patients with inflammation in the eye, as in uveitis. This differs from the rhegmatogenous type in the fact that there’s no tear in the retina itself. It differs from tractional because there is no scar tissue pulling on the retina.

Inflammation in the eye causes leakage from the blood vessels, or impairs the function of the cells to pump fluid away from the space under the retina. Treatment for this kind of retinal detachment also does not involve surgery but usually medical therapy.

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Retinal detachments are painless, but they are very serious nonetheless. If untreated, this results in permanent vision loss. They usually tend to start in the peripheral retina before progressing toward the central retina (the macula). Once the central retina is affected, the loss in vision usually becomes very obvious and significant.

As such, it is vital to treat retinal detachments as soon as they appear. The question, of course, is whether we can pick up symptoms to detect a retinal detachment when it is still early, or even before it happens, when it is still at the stage of being a retinal break.

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 What are the symptoms of retinal detachment?

First, it bears noting that each case is unique. Some people experience a whole host of symptoms when they get a retinal detachment while others do not at all.

Severity plays a role here as well. The more serious your retinal detachment is – or the bigger the portion of retina detached – the more likely you are to develop symptoms.

Below are the more common symptoms that people with retinal detachment will notice. Take note that you may experience one, a few, or even all of these if you have the condition:

  • Photopsias, also known as flashes of light in your vision
  • Floaters, usually many, or more than usual, which are dots or lines that float around your field of vision
  • Partially obscured or darkened peripheral vision which may progress to involve your central vision

The presence of these symptoms does not guarantee that you have retinal detachment, however, just as their absence doesn’t guarantee the absence of that condition as well.

Get evaluated for retinal detachment today

Now that you know the meaning, causes, and symptoms of retinal detachment, it is time to evaluate whether or not you may be suffering from it. As noted above, the presence or absence of the symptoms listed isn’t a confirmation, however.

That’s why the only certainty can come from getting assessed by a professional. For example, here at Shinagawa Eye Centre, we can perform various tests to check for retinal detachment and other eye issues.

More importantly, we can come up with a treatment plan as soon as possible. This can help you prevent the vision loss that tends to come from retinal detachment worsening.

Call us to enquire or book an appointment for retinal detachment assessment and treatment as soon as possible.