Retinal Detachment & Torn Retina


The retina is a layer of nerve tissue at the back of the eye that plays a key role in the ability to see. The middle of the eye contains a clear gel called vitreous that is attached to the retina. As the vitreous gel pulls loose, it will sometimes exert traction on the retina, causing it to tear. From there, this fluid may pass through the retinal tear, lifting the retina off the back of the eye.

When the retina is pulled away from the back of the eye, it’s called a retinal detachment. If the retina becomes detached or peels away from the supportive tissue on the back of the eye, it can impair vision or cause blindness. A detached retina must be treated with surgery, while a torn retina may be treated with lasers or surgery.

Causes & Types

Causes of Retinal Tear and Detachment

A retinal tear or detached retina may be caused by:

  • Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), a common eye condition where the eye’s vitreous gel becomes separated from the retina
  • Advanced diabetes
  • Eye injury

Types of Retinal Detachment

Some common types of retinal detachment include:

  • Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment (RRD), the most common type of detachment. RRD is caused by holes or breaks in the retina, or retinal tears. These retinal tears allow fluid from the eye to pass through the tear and settle under the retina, where it pushes the retina away from the layer beneath it.
  • Tractional retinal detachment, which occurs when scar tissue or other abnormal tissue grows on the surface of the retina, pulling it away from the layer beneath it. This type of retinal detachment does not involve tears in the retina.
  • Exudative retinal detachment, which occurs when fluid or blood from the middle layer tissue of the eyeball flows into the space under the retina. This causes separation of the retina and the layer beneath it. Like tractional retinal detachment, exudative retinal detachment does not involve tears in the retina.


The most common detached retina symptoms include:

  • Reduced vision quality or vision impairment
  • Blurry vision
  • Seeing spots or flashes of light
  • A shadow over your field of vision

Services & Treatment

A torn or detached retina requires immediate treatment. A torn retina can become detached quickly. Once a retina detaches, blindness can occur within hours. If you’re having difficulty seeing or are experiencing other detached retina symptoms, call your doctor immediately.

The only effective retinal detachment treatment is surgery. Different types of detached retina surgery include:

  • Neumatic retinopexy
  • Scleral buckling surgery
  • Vitrectomy

If your retina is torn but not yet detached, retinal tear treatment is available. Your ophthalmologist may be able to repair the tear using lasers or retinal tear surgery.

Why Aurora?

  • Our ophthalmologists are on call 24/7, so if you have an eye emergency, we’re here to help.
  • Our clinics, hospitals and surgery centers provide care for a whole spectrum of eye issues – from regular eye exams to complex eye surgeries.
  • We offer hundreds of specialists across our fully integrated network. If your doctor notices another health issue during your eye exam, like symptoms of diabetes, they’ll be able to connect you with the right Aurora specialist.


If you think you may have a torn or detached retina, or if you’d like more information about retinal tear surgery, contact the eastern Wisconsin ophthalmology center nearest you. Our ophthalmologists practice in the following locations:*

*Some ophthalmologists practice inside Aurora Health Care clinics instead of dedicated ophthalmology centers. Contact your neighborhood clinic for more information, or search for a detached retina expert near you.

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