8040 N. Wickham Road  -  Melbourne, FL 32940  |  Phone: 321- 757-7272

Adjust Font Size small textMedium textLarge text

Torn or Detached Retina

What is a torn retina?

A tear in the retina has occurred. This is the nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and transmits images to the brain.

How does a retina become torn?

A clear gel called the vitreous fills the middle of the eye. As we get older, this gel changes its shape and size. In doing so, the vitreous will pull away from the retina at the back of the eye. This is a natural change and usually occurs without incident. Sometimes, when the vitreous gel pulls away from the retina, it takes a small amount of retinal tissue with it producing a tear.

What are the symptoms of a torn retina?

Light flashes and lightning streaks could mean retinal cells are not in their normal position to receive clear, focused visual images. Floaters may mean specks of retinal tissue are floating in the vitreous gel.

Flashing lights, lightning streaks and floaters are all symptoms of a torn retina. However, you may experience these conditions and not have a torn retina. Flashes and streaks may be occurring because the vitreous gel is simply rubbing against the retina and no tearing is present. A floater may be a harmless speck of tissue.

That’s why it’s important to see an experienced ophthalmologist for an evaluation if you see flashing lights, lightning streaks or a floater.

If the retina is torn, it must be treated immediately because a torn retina can deteriorate into a detached retina.

Return to Top of Page

How is a torn retina treated?

Laser surgery or a freezing process (cryotherapy). Each treatment seals the retina to the back wall of the eye. Both treatments are painless and may be performed in your ophthalmologist’s office.

How does a torn retina become a detached retina?

The eye is composed of many fluids. If any of these fluids passes through a retinal tear, it may lift the retina off the back of the eye like wallpaper can peel off a wall.

A detached retina is a very serious problem. It almost always causes blindness unless it is treated.

Are symptoms of a detached retina different than symptoms of a torn retina?

In addition to flashing lights, lightning streaks and floaters, people with detached retinas see shadows in their peripheral vision or a gray curtain moving across their field of vision. Images may be blurred.

Return to Top of Page

Are some people more likely than others to have detached retinas?

Yes. People susceptible to head trauma and people who already have a detached retina in one eye are in a higher risk group as are people with a family history of detached retinas. People who are nearsighted, have glaucoma or have undergone cataract surgery are also in a higher risk group.

How is a detached retina treated?

Almost all patients with retinal detachments require surgery to return the retina to its proper position. There are different surgical procedures to repair a detached retina. The treatment decision depends upon the specific traits of the person’s detachment.

Will I see immediate improvement?

Most retinal detachment surgeries are successful. However, vision may take many months to improve.

The more severe the detachment, the less vision may return. That’s why it’s so important to see an eye doctor when the first symptom appears.

What can I expect during an office visit for light flashes, lightning streaks or floaters?

Patients will receive a painless, comfortable, comprehensive eye examination with special attention directed toward the vitreous gel and the retina. Their pupils may be dilated with eye drops possibly requiring arrangements for a driver.

Following the examination, I will discuss the patient’s condition and review all treatment options. Most importantly, I take whatever time my patients need for me to answer all their questions and feel comfortable with our treatment plan.

That is the essence of personalized eye care.

Return to Top of Page