Retinal Detachment - Symptoms

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What are retinal detachment symptoms and signs?

Flashing lights and floaters may be the initial symptoms of a retinal detachment or of a retinal tear that precedes the detachment itself. Anyone who is beginning to experience these symptoms should see an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) for a retinal exam. In the exam, drops are used to dilate the patient's pupils to make a more detailed exam easier. The symptoms of flashing lights and floaters may often be unassociated with a tear or detachment and can merely result from a separation of the vitreous gel from the retina. This condition is called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). Although a PVD occurs commonly, there are no tears associated with the condition most of the time.

The flashing lights are caused by the vitreous gel pulling on the retina or a looseness of the vitreous, which allows the vitreous gel to bump against the retina. The lights are often described as resembling brief lightning streaks in the outside edges (periphery) of the eye. The floaters are caused by condensations (small solidifications) in the vitreous gel and frequently are described by patients as spots, strands, or little flies. Some patients even want to use a flyswatter to eliminate these pesky floaters. There is no safe treatment to make the floaters disappear. Floaters are usually not associated with tears of the retina.

If the patient experiences a shadow or curtain that affects any part of the vision, this can indicate that a retinal tear has progressed to a detached retina. In this situation, one should immediately consult an eye doctor since time can be critical. The goal for the ophthalmologist is to make the diagnosis and treat the retinal tear or detachment before the central macular area of the retina detaches.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Al, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: March 21

I have been seeing a specialist for 12 years for retinoschisis, (fraying at the edge of the retina). He said it would remain stable and it has for all that time. I have had a floater in my right eye for all that time out of the main field of vision and stable. About a month ago, however, I noticed the floater changing shape and getting bigger. Black dots eventually appeared. Suddenly, five days ago, a streak of blood appeared across the field of vision in the right eye that dispersed into a web-like effect. I went to an eye surgery center the next day and was told after the exam that the vitreous had detached from the retina, ruptured a blood vessel, and tore a small hole in the retina. I had laser surgery that day. Afterwards, I had a minor headache and vague nausea for a day or two. Now it seems fine and my vision is clear. The only problem is that the floater has moved into the center of vision in my right eye, and is stained, I guess from the blood discharge. The doctor said that the stain would clear up. I don't know what will happen with the floater.

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Comment from: snap1, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: April 16

I am on my 3rd detached retina. The first one occurred about 12 years ago. And seems to be holding its own with the scleral buckle. The second occurred 7 years ago in the other eye. I have always had trouble with tons of floaters in this eye after the surgery with the scleral buckle; to the point I would have to blink my eye to get them to move so that I could see what I was reading. Now, seven years later here I am with another detached retina in the second eye, having it repaired with the gas bubble. My doctor told me more than likely this one was caused by scar tissue rubbing against the retina and forming a tear. Just for the record I did not know you could have a second in the same eye. I figured after it was fixed; it was fixed. So, if you"ve had a detached retina already, you are not omitted from having this problem again. And diabetes is not the only reason for this retina problem. And it does not occur in just in older people. I am a healthy, 50 plus man who has had problems since I was in my 30s.

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