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Retinal Tears & Detachments

A retinal detachment is a very serious problem that usually causes blindness unless treated. Detachments occur when the retina is pulled away from its normal position, usually caused when the vitreous (gel-like substance in eye) separates from the retina. Fluid may pass through a tear in the retina, lifting it off the back of the eye, causing a detachment.


Common symptoms include persistent flashing lights, increase in floaters, decrease or loss of vision, and/or a “curtain” covering part of your vision.
A retinal detachment can occur at any age, but it is more common in people over the age of 40.

A retinal detachment is also more likely to occur in people who:

  • Are highly myopic
  • Have had a previous retinal detachment in the other eye
  • Have a family history of this condition
  • Have had recent cataract surgery
  • Have diabetes


Tears can be repaired by laser treatment either in office, the operating room, or with a special “cryo” therapy that freezes the retina back in place or stabilizes the area.
Typically surgery is the main treatment for detachments. A vitrectomy surgery is performed with microscopic incisions and tools used to reattach the retina. Laser and cryo therapy is often used during surgery. Often, in order to repair the detachment, a gas bubble is injected into the eye during surgery to help seal the retina during healing. You must keep your head in a special face-down position to allow the bubble to keep pressure on the repaired area. Occasionally, a flexible band (called a scleral buckle) is placed around the eye to help counteract the force pulling the retina out of place.

Despite the difficulty with getting to the retina and treating this tough condition, over 90 percent of the people diagnosed with a retinal detachment are treated successfully according to the National Eye Institute. This visual outcome is not always predictable and patients are encouraged to consult an ophthalmologist about their specific retinal detachment problem.