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Retinal Detachments and Retinal Tears


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The retina, located in the back of your eye, provides the sharp central vision you need for reading, driving and seeing fine details. When your retina pulls away from its normal position, it is called a retinal detachment. In some people, the retina doesn’t detach, but develops a retinal tear, which can lead to a detachment later. Detachments occur at any age, but are more likely if you’re a woman, over the age of 40 or if your eye is injured.

What Are the Symptoms of Retinal Detachments and Tears?
Retinal detachments cause permanent blindness. If you have any of the symptoms below, seek immediate medical attention – detachments are considered a medical emergency.

Signs of retinal problems include:

  • Sudden appearance of many floaters — tiny specks drifting through your field of vision
  • Flashes of light in one or both eyes – when the retina tugs away from the back of the eye, it gives off flashes of light
  • Blurred vision
  • Gradually reduced side (peripheral) vision
  • Curtain-like shadow over your visual field

What Causes Retinal Damage?
As we age, retinal issues become more common. Generally, older adults experience a retinal tear first. This occurs when the vitreous (gel-like material inside the eye) separates from the back of the eye. If a tear is left untreated, fluid inside the eye can move behind the retina and cause a detachment. Detachments and tears also result from:

  • Injury
  • Advanced diabetes

You are also more likely to experience retinal damage if you:

  • Are very nearsighted
  • Already had a detachment in one eye
  • Have a family history of detachments
  • Had cataract surgery
  • Have other eye diseases or disorders
  • Had an eye injury

Serious eye conditions require fast, accurate diagnosis and timely treatment. If you suspect a retinal detachment or tear, don’t wait – contact the experts at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of the University of Miami Health System, today.


Retinal Examination - A comprehensive exam of your eyes while dilated is the best way to diagnose a detachment or tear. Using an ophthalmoscope, your physician examines the back of your eye, including your retina. The ophthalmoscope’s bright light and special lens provides an extremely detailed view. Your physician can then accurately locate retinal holes, tears or detachments.

Ultrasound Imaging - If there is any bleeding in your eye, it’s harder to see and evaluate your retina. In this case, your doctor uses ultrasound imaging to help identify any retinal damage.


Most retinal tears are treated with laser therapy, which protects you from future detachments. Detached retinas generally need surgical repair.

Pneumatic Retinopexy - In this procedure, your surgeon injects a gas bubble into the space between your eye’s lens and retina. This bubble pushes the retinal tear against the back of your eye. Using a laser or freezing (cryo) therapy, your surgeon then closes the tear.

Scleral Buckle - Your surgeon places a thin, tiny, flexible band around the outside of your eyeball to gently push the wall of your eye against the detached retina. Next, the tear is closed with laser or freezing therapy.

Vitrectomy - This surgery involves removing the vitreous – the gel-like substance in the middle of your eye. Your surgeon then replaces it with a sterile, clear solution or dissolvable gas bubble to keep the retina in place and to prevent detachment.

Why Choose Bascom Palmer Eye Institute?

World-class Reputation. When you have a vision-threatening condition, you need the finest care. Choosing the #1 eye hospital in America (U.S. News & World Report), you place your eyesight in skilled hands. Our physician-researchers routinely win prestigious recognitions and grant awards for their work.

Patient-centered Support. When your vision is at stake, you need a caring team on your side. Expert vision care is only the beginning. We’re here to educate, guide, and support you throughout your journey.

A Full Range of Care. Retinal problems often occur because of underlying issues, such as cataracts, diabetes or other eye diseases and conditions. A multidisciplinary approach means having a team of specialists working to preserve your sight. Each brings specific skills and knowledge to restore your retinal health.

Research Breakthroughs. At Bascom Palmer, research translates into treatments. Several of our physician-researchers specialize in retinal degeneration disorders. By closing the gap between the lab and exam room, we give patients faster access to promising treatments and innovative clinical trials.

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