A torn or detached retina is a serious medical condition and can lead to permanent blindness if not treated right away. However, many individuals dismiss symptoms because retinal tears and detachment are usually painless — and are not associated with an emergency. As a result, many people who suffer from a retinal tear or detachment don’t seek treatment as quickly as they should.

    The retina at the back of the eye is essential for vision, since the retina holds the receptors that create images when we look at things. The retina is attached to choroid tissue — a bundle of fibers and blood vessels that deliver oxygenated blood the eye. A detached retina occurs when the retina becomes separated from the choroid, which affects thousands of people every year. As mentioned, retinal tears and detachments are painless, but there are some telltale symptoms. The first symptoms of a retinal tear or detachment are typically floaters and flashes. Floaters and flashes that occur suddenly, or that significantly increase in number will require emergency evaluation and treatment.


    Floaters are small moving dots, lines, or objects that look like bits of dust within the visual field. They are typically gray or white in color, and can either stay in one place or move around. As many as 70% of all people have floaters in their field of vision at one time or another without any real problem. If you close one eye and look at a blank wall, you might see these types of objects in the field of vision. If floaters have been in your line of vision for many months or years, they are benign. However, if they occur suddenly, or if their number increases dramatically and suddenly, you may have an eye emergency and should call your Silverstein Eye Centers specialist immediately.


    Like floaters, flashes may also occur in the field of vision and often look like lightning flashes, arcs of light, or flashing strobe lights. Some have described flashes as “seeing stars” after being hit in the head. Although it may look as if there are flashes of light, there aren’t. Flashes are not as common as floaters, but the two often occur together. If you suddenly begin to have flashes when you haven’t had them before, or you see an increase in the number or frequency of flashes, call Silverstein Eye Centers right away for advice and evaluation.


    Although sudden onset of floaters and flashes or sudden increases in numbers of them is the most common symptoms of torn or detached retina, some people experience additional symptoms. Reduced vision, especially if it occurs quickly, is a significant emergency and may be signs of a torn or detached retina, as well as several other eye-related problems. Some people experience changes in the peripheral vision that look like a curtain or shadow over the side vision, but over time, the effect worsens. It can take anywhere from hours to weeks for this to occur, but it is always an emergency.

    When caught early enough, retinal tears and detachment are treatable, although the amount of vision that is able to be restored or preserved depends on the health of the retina before detachment, and on how long it has been detached. If the detachment occurred more than four to five days prior to treatment, there will be significant vision loss even after surgical treatment. There are a few different ways to treat retinal tears and detachments, and your doctor will choose the best option for you based on your overall health, the health of your eyes before surgery, and additional factors.

    If you have any of the signs or symptoms described here, or have any questions or concerns about your eye health, be sure to call Silverstein Eye Centers right away for further advice, evaluation, and treatment. Call us today at (816) 358-3600 to schedule an appointment. We look forward to seeing you soon.

    Posted May 1, 2014 by Silverstein Eye Centers
    Skip to content