As part of our medical services, Andersen Eye Associates treats common retinal afflictions including retinal tears and detachment, and relating vision problems.

Download Retinal Tears and Detachment PDF

What is Retinal Detachment?

The retina is a thin layer of light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. When light enters the eye, it is focused by the cornea and lens onto the retina. The retina then transforms the light images into electrical impulses, which are sent to the brain by the optic nerve.

Retinal detachment occurs when the retina becomes separated from the back wall of the eye. When the retina becomes detached, its blood supply is reduced and its ability to process light rays is impaired. If total detachment occurs, the retina becomes useless, as it can no longer transmit information to the brain, and the eye becomes blind.

What causes retinal detachment?

As part of the normal aging process, clear fluid that fills the inner cavity of the eye begins to shrink and pull away from the retina. Most of this shrinking causes no damage to the eye. However, sometimes the vitreous remains attached to the retina and then the shrinking of the vitreous causes the retina to tear. These tears usually occur in the peripheral retina where there is little effect on vision.

Left untreated, however, retinal tears can lead to retinal detachment. Once a retinal tear is present, fluid from the vitreous may seep through the tear into the space between the retina and the wall of the eye. The fluid causes the retina to separate from the back of the eye or detach. The part of the retina that becomes detached will not function properly, resulting in vision loss.

Retinal detachment can also be caused by tumors, inflammation and complications of diabetes. With these types of detachment, no holes or tears occur in the retina. Treatment of the disease causing the detachment is the only way to allow the retina to return to its normal position.

What are the symptoms of retinal tears and detachment?

Retinal tears may develop without any noticeable symptoms. In other cases, the vitreous gel pulling away from the retina may cause the patient to see flashes of light.

Floaters, which appear as black spots or lines in the filed of vision, may result from bleeding of torn retinal vessels or the formation of small clumps of vitreous matter. Floaters and flashes do not always indicate a serious problem, such as retinal tears, but a complete eye examination is necessary to determine their significance.

Download Floaters and Flashes PDF

How are retinal tears and detachment diagnosed?

Techniques involving the slit lamp, direct and indirect ophthalmoscopes and specialized contact lenses are used to see into the back of the eye. Fundus photography, flourescein angiography or computerized ophthalmic imaging may be used to help pinpoint small leaks in blood vessels and damage to the retina that cannot be detected with visual examination. Visual field testing also helps in detecting damaged areas of the retina. Ultrasound testing can be used when visibility into the eye is limited from a cataract and also to measure growths in the eye or the thickness of certain layers of tissue.

How are retinal tears and detachment treated?

Retinal tears require immediate treatment to prevent retinal detachment and sight loss. Treatment of retinal tears is designed to create a scar that welds the retina to the back of the eye to prevent future tearing. The scar seals the tear and blocks fluid from passing under the retina. Tears can be sealed with laser light or with a freezing probe (cryopexy). During laser treatment, heat from the laser is used to place small scars around the edge of the tear to seal the break.

Once the retina becomes detached, it must be repaired surgically and over 90% of of all retinal detachments can be surgically repaired, although occasionally more than one operation is required.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of a retinal tear or detachment, or another vision problem, you should obtain a complete eye examination. Contact Andersen Eye Associates today to schedule an appointment.


Andersen Eye Associates proudly serves the Greater Saginaw region including Flint, Frankenmuth, Bay City, Midland, Bridgeport, Bad Axe, Mount Pleasant, and surrounding areas.

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