A retinal detachment is where the inner layer at the back of your eye peels off. Retinal detachment surgery should prevent your vision from getting worse.

Normal retina, torn retina and detached retinaWhat is a retinal detachment?

The retina is the inner layer at the back of your eye that changes light coming into your eye into images that are sent to your brain. Sometimes the retina can peel off (detach) causing your vision to be blurred or a shadow to develop in your vision (see figure 1).

Most retinal detachments are caused by the jelly that fills the centre of your eye shrinking and pulling on the retina. A retinal detachment can also be caused by an injury to your eye or previous eye surgery.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The aim is to prevent your vision from getting worse.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Sometimes the tear or hole can be treated without any surgery, using a laser or by freezing treatment.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes 90 minutes to two hours.

Your surgeon can repair any tears or holes using a laser or by freezing treatment.

Retinal detachment surgery can involve removing the jelly and replacing it with air, gas or silicone oil, or stitching a small piece of silicone rubber onto the surface of your eye.

What complications can happen?

1 General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection

2 Specific complications

  • Heavy bleeding inside your eye
  • Raised pressure in your eye
  • The retina may become detached again
  • Reduced vision
  • Double vision
  • Inflammation in your other eye

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the next day.

Do not swim or lift anything heavy until you have checked with your surgeon.

Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Your surgeon will let you know if new glasses will improve your vision and will arrange an eye test about a month after surgery.

It may take some time before your vision starts to improve.


Author: Mr Anthony King MD FRCOphth
Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM

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Last updated: July 2017

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