Retinal detachment

Labelled Diagram of the Eye

Labelled diagram of the structure of the retina

Retinal Detachment is the separation of the inner nervous (or "neurosensory") layer of the retina from the outer pigmented layer, or "outer retinal pigment epithelium".

Retinal detachment can occur when one or more tiny holes in the retina enable fluid from the vitreous cavity (the fluid is called "vitreous humour, or vitreous body) to accumulate in the subretinal space between the sensory retina and the retinal pigment epithelium. However, although that is a common example of a possible cause of retinal detachment that is given in many definitions and descriptions of retinal detachment, it is not the only possible cause.

Retinal Detachment may be identified as one of several types, depending on its cause:

  • Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment – i.e. due to hole, tear, or break in the retina enabling fluid to pass from the vitreous space into the subretinal space between the sensory retina and the retinal pigment epithelium.
  • Exudative, Serous, or Secondary retinal detachment – i.e. due to inflammation, injury, or vascular abnormalities resulting in fluid accumulating underneath the retina without the presence of a hole, tear, or break.
  • Tractional retinal detachment – i.e. due to fibrovascular tissue, caused by injury, inflammation or neovascularization ("neovascularization" = abnormal formation of new and fragile blood vessels) pulling apart the layers of the retina.

Retinal detachment is uncommon overall, and especially in children and younger adults. When it does occur, retinal detachment generally affects people of middle-age and older, in many cases those with myopia. Exceptional cases of retinal detachment in younger people tend to involve young adult males who have retinal detachment as a result of a trauma, e.g. due to "paint-ball" injuries.


In cases of retinal detachment, vision corresponding to the affected part(s) of the retina is reduced or lost while the condition persists. However, retinal detachment can usually be treated surgically. Depending on the severity of the case, treatment might be carried-out under local, or general, anesthetic.

More about Ophthalmology:

This section includes short definitions of many diseases, disorders, and conditions of the eyes and visual system.
For definitions of other terms in this category, choose from the list to the left (but note that this is not a complete/exhaustive list).

Other related pages include

For further information see also our pages of books about ophthalmology.

The following books may also be of interest:

The Aging Eye (Harvard Medical School)
MCQ Companion to the Eye (Textbook)
The Secret of Perfect Vision: How You Can Prevent and Reverse Nearsightedness
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About(TM) Glaucoma: The Essential Treatments and Advances That Could Save Your Sight

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