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What is a detached retina?

Retinal detachment is when your retina, the thin layer at the back of your eye, peels away from the back of your eye. Before the retina detaches you may see flashes and/or floaters. You should contact your optometrist straight away if you notice:

  • a sudden increase in floaters, particularly if you also notice flashing lights
  • a new, large floater
  • a change in floaters or flashing lights after you have had a direct blow to your eye.

If you cannot contact your optometrist, or if you notice a shadow spreading across the vision of one of your eyes you should get urgent attention, ideally from an eye casualty department at the hospital.

Who is affected by a detached retina?

Your retina can become detached following a blow to your eye, for example from punch or a ball. You are more likely to have a detached retina if you:

  • are short-sighted
  • have had an eye operation (such as cataract surgery)
  • have had an eye injury
  • have a family history of retinal detachment
  • have had a previous retinal detachment in that eye or the other eye
  • are over the age of 50
  • have certain retinal diseases such as lattice or other retinal degeneration
  • have certain systematic diseases such as Marfan syndrome.

What are the symptoms of a detached retina?

Retinal detachment causes a shadow coming across your vision. Some people describe it as being like a veil or curtain. If you notice this you should go to your local eye casualty as soon as possible. If your local hospital does not have an eye casualty department you should go to A&E, but it is better if you go to eye casualty if you can.

How do you treat a detached retina?

If you have a detached retina you may need surgery to reattach the retina. This is usually done under local anaesthetic and you normally don’t need to stay in hospital overnight. After surgery you may have red, sore eyes and blurry vision. You may not be able to drive and may be told to avoid flying, depending on the type of surgery you have had. You should recover from surgery within two to six weeks.

Detached retina advice, information and support