Retinal detachment can occur as a result of:

  • Shrinkage or contraction of the vitreous (VIT-ree-us) — the gel-like material that fills the inside of your eye. This can create tugging on the retina and a retinal tear, leading to a retinal detachment.
  • Injury
  • Advanced diabetes
  • An inflammatory eye disorder

How retinal detachment occurs

Retinal detachment can occur when the gel-like material (vitreous) leaks through a retinal hole or tear and collects underneath the retina.

Reasons for holes or tears include:

  • Aging or retinal disorders can cause the retina to thin. Retinal detachment due to a tear in the retina typically develops when there is a sudden collapse of the vitreous, causing tugging on the retina with enough force to create a tear.

    Fluid inside the vitreous then finds its way through the tear and collects under the retina, peeling it away from the underlying tissues. These tissues contain a layer of blood vessels called the choroid (KOR-oid). The areas where the retina is detached lose this blood supply and stop working, so you lose vision.

  • In certain inflammatory conditions or other disorders, fluid also can accumulate beneath the retina without a tear or break.

Aging-related retinal tears that lead to retinal detachment

As you age, your vitreous may change in consistency and shrink or become more liquid. Eventually, the vitreous may separate from the surface of the retina — a common condition called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). It's also called vitreous collapse.

As the vitreous separates or peels off the retina, it may tug on the retina with enough force to create a retinal tear. Left untreated, fluid from the vitreous cavity can pass through the tear into the space behind the retina, causing the retina to become detached.

PVD can cause visual symptoms. You may see flashes of sparkling lights (photopsia) when your eyes are closed or when you're in a darkened room. New or different floaters may appear in your field of vision.

Mar. 23, 2013