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Retinal Detachment Caused by Injury to Eye

By Kathryn Colby, MD, PhD, Louis Block Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Science, University of Chicago School of Medicine

Blunt injury may cause part of the retina or the entire retina to tear or to separate (detach) from its underlying surface at the back of the eyeball. Usually, only part of the retina is detached (often the outside edge, or peripheral part, of the retina), but if treatment does not occur soon, more of the retina can detach.

Initially, retinal detachment may create images of irregular dark floating shapes (floaters) or flashes of light. Parts of vision may be blurred or lost, usually side (peripheral) vision. If more of the retina detaches, more vision is blurred or lost.

A person with these symptoms needs to see a doctor as soon as possible. The diagnosis is made by an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in the evaluation and treatment—surgical and nonsurgical—of eye disorders), who examines the back of the eye with a bright light (ophthalmoscopy) after the eye has been dilated. Sometimes an ultrasound examination is done.

An ophthalmologist can often reattach a detached retina or prevent the injury from worsening by using various treatments such as surgery, lasers, or freezing therapy (cryopexy).