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Retinal Tear

The eye is filled with a gel (“vitreous”) that supports its shape. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. It records visual images and sends them to your brain so you can see. Behind the retina is a thin layer of blood vessels that send oxygen to the retina.

With age, the vitreous contracts, separating from the retinal tissue. When the vitreous separates it causes “floaters” to appear gradually. (Floaters are small dots or strings that seem to be moving across your field of vision). Floaters are harmless.

Sometimes, when the vitreous pulls away from the retina it can cause a tear in the retina. If this happens, you will experience a sudden onset of many floaters, which may occur with flashes of light. A retinal tear is painless, but is a serious condition. If not treated, most retinal tears will progress to retinal detachment within days or weeks. Retinal detachment is also painless, but it causes vision loss which is permanent.

Eye surgery is necessary to treat a retinal tear and prevent it from progressing to a retinal detachment. The methods commonly used are laser surgery or freezing. They may be done as outpatient procedures. Healing takes about two weeks.

Home Care:

  1. Avoid contact sports or strenuous exertion prior to treatment by the eye doctor.

  2. Use eye protection when performing activities that risk injury to the eye (use of power tools, mowing, etc.)

  3. If you have a detached retina with severely impaired vision, your lifestyle will be affected. Depending on the degree of loss, you may no longer be able to drive or do other things you’re used to doing. If this happens, you might want to take some of the following steps to help:

    • You can have special glasses made for people with a detached retina to improve your vision.

    • Increase the amount of light in your home. This will make it easier for you to see.

    • Make your home safer by identifying hazards that might cause you to trip and fall.

    • Ask your family and friends for help. Talk with other people who have impaired vision. Members of support groups and on-line networks may have advice that’s helpful to you.

Follow Up

You will be referred to an eye doctor for further evaluation. Do not delay in seeing this doctor. Prompt treatment is necessary to protect your vision.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following signs of a new retinal tear occur:

  • Any sudden changes in your vision

  • Light flashes or “wavy” vision

  • Sudden blur in your vision

  • Burst of new floaters appearing in your field of vision


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