Detached & Torn Retina

What Is The Retina?

The retina is a nerve layer at the back of your eye that senses light and sends images to your brain. An eye is like a camera. The lens in the front of the eye focuses light onto the retina.

You can think of the retina as the film that lines the back of a camera.

What Is a Retinal Detachment?

A retinal detachment occurs when the retina is pulled away from its normal position. The retina does not work when it is detached and vision will be blurred.

A retinal detachment is a very serious problem that almost always causes blindness unless it is treated


The vitreous is a clear gel that fills the middle of the eye. As we get older, the vitreous may pull away from its attachment to the retina at the back of the eye. Usually the vitreous separates from the retina without causing problems. But sometimes the vitreous pulls hard enough to tear the retina in one or more places.

Fluid may pass through the retinal tear, lifting the retina off the back of the eye, like

wallpaper can peel off a wall.

The following conditions increase the chance that you might get a retinal detachment.

  • previous cataract surgery
  • nearsightedness
  • glaucoma
  • severe injury
  • previous retinal detachment in your other eye
  • family history of retinal detachment
  • weak areas in your retina that can be seen by your ophthalmologist.

Warning Signs

These early symptoms may indicate the presence of a retinal detachment:

  • flashing lights
  • new floaters;
  • a grey curtain moving across your field of vision.

These symptoms do not always mean a retinal detachment is present. However, you should see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Your ophthalmologist can diagnose retinal detachment during an eye examination where he or she dilates (enlarges) the pupils of your eyes. Some retinal detachments are found during routine eye examination. 

Only after careful examination can your ophthalmologist tell whether a retinal tear or early retinal detachment is present.


Retinal Tears

Most retinal tears need to be treated with laser surgery or cryotherapy

(freezing), which seals the retina to the back wall of the eye.

These treatments cause little or no discomfort and may be performed in your ophthalmologist’s surgery. Treatment usually prevents retinal detachment. In some cases retinal tears can be observed without treatment.

Retinal Detachments

Almost all patients with retinal detachments require surgery to put the retina back in its proper position.

Types Of Surgery

There are several ways to repair a retinal detachment. The decision of which type of surgery and anaesthesia (local or general) to use depends upon the characteristics of your detachment. In each of the following methods, your ophthalmologist will locate the retinal tears and use laser surgery or cryotherapy around them to seal the tear.

Scleral Buckle

A flexible band (scleral buckle) is placed around the eye to counteract the force pulling the retina out of place. The ophthalmologist often drains the fluid under the detached retina from the eye, pulling the retina to its normal position against the back wall of the eye. This procedure is performed in an operating room.

Pneumatic Retinopexy

A gas bubble is injected into the vitreous space inside the eye. The gas bubble pushes the retinal tear close against the back wall of the eye. Your ophthalmologist will ask you to maintain a certain head position for several days. The gas bubble will gradually disappear. Sometimes this procedure can be done in the ophthalmologist’s surgery.


The vitreous gel, which is pulling on the retina, is removed from the eye and usually replaced with a gas bubble. Your body’s own fluids will gradually replace the gas bubble. Sometimes vitrectomy is combined with a scleral buckle.

After Surgery

You can expect some discomfort after surgery. Your ophthalmologist will prescribe any necessary medications for you and advise you when to resume normal activity. You will need to wear an eye patch for a short time. Flashing lights and floaters may continue for a while after surgery. If a gas bubble was placed in your eye, your ophthalmologist may recommend that you keep your head in special positions for a time.

Do not fly in an aeroplane or travel up to high altitudes until you are told that the gas bubble is gone!

A rapid increase in altitude can cause a dangerous rise in eye pressure. A change of glasses is often helpful after several months.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Risks Of Surgery?

Any surgery has risks. However, an untreated retinal detachment usually results in permanent severe vision loss or blindness.

Some of the surgical risks include:

  • infection;
  • bleeding;
  • high pressure in the eye;

Most retinal detachment surgery is successful, although a second operation is sometimes needed. If the retina cannot be reattached, then the eye will continue to lose sight and ultimately become blind.

Will Your Vision Improve?

Vision may take many months to improve and in some cases may never return fully. Unfortunately, some patients do not recover any vision. The more severe the detachment, the less vision may return. For this reason, it is very important to see your ophthalmologist at the first sign of any trouble.

Booking an appointment

You will require a valid referral to claim your consultation fee and associated investigations from Medicare. Referrals from your GP or Optometrist are valid for 12 months, however specialist referrals are only valid for 3 months.
If you require any specific information regarding your eye problem, for example cataract or glaucoma consultations, we ask you kindly ring your desired practice for fees and further information.

Urgent Appointments

If you have any urgent query or problem, we request that patients or referrers ring the practice directly and speak with a staff member. We will always do our best to accommodate for urgent referrals, or direct you in the best possible manner.

How to reach us?

Dr Brian Chua's primary consulting locations are St Vincent's Clinic and Gordon Eye Surgery.
Please ring us if you require any further information or wish to book an appointment.

St Vincent's Clinic Ophthalmology

Level 10 Suite 1006
438 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Ph: 02 8382 6030
Fax: 02 8382 6031

Gordon Eye Surgery

2/741 Pacific Highway
Gordon NSW 2072

Ph: 02 9418 1488
Fax: 02 9418 4392

Lane Cove Eye Surgery

304/71 Longueville Rd, Lane Cove NSW 2066

Ph: 02 8377 7600