Detached Retina: Can Now Often Be Repaired

If a retina becomes detached from the tissue at the back of the eyeball, it is deprived of its blood supply which is carrying essential oxygen and nutrients. It must be reattached as soon as possible to prevent irreversible loss of sight. Fortunately, advances in repairing minor retinal tears have been preventing the more serious eventuality of complete retinal detachment.

A retina may become detached as the result of a cyst or tumor, a hemorrhage, acute infection, extreme nearsightedness, the aging of eye tissues, or a severe blow to the eye. (Athletes, especially boxers, are particularly vulnerable to retinal detachment.)

Retinal detachment can sometimes be a complication of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cataract surgery. Extremely high stress may also be a factor. A California study(*) of 33 people who had suffered detached retinas concluded that the problem can be precipitated by highly stressful situations that cause a sudden surge in blood pressure.

As pressure increases, fluid is forced from the capillaries behind the retina, causing blisters to form on the retinas surface. When individuals are under stress, the capillaries may become increasingly weakened, making the possibility of detachment an ever-present danger.

The first stage in retinal detachment may be a hole or tear in the retina. This damage can occur if the vitreous gel, or humor, in the center of the eye begins to shrink. As the gel liquifies, it peels away from the retina and forms the threadlike “floaters” familiar to millions of people as harmless phenomena that come and go without any consequence and for no clear reasons

When vitreous gel begins to peel away to a greater extent, it pulls on the retina and dazzling flashes of fight, or ‘star's appear. If the pull leads to a small tear in the retina, blood from damaged blood vessels will enter the vitreous gel through this slight opening. The result of this seepage is a clouding of vision. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of these symptoms by a specialist can prevent an eventual emergency.

Diagnostic Studies and Procedures

Diagnosis is based on an examination of the eye with an ophthalmoscope, which gives the doctor a close-up view of the retina. A technique known as indirect ophthalmoscopy, invented in the 19th century, is used to get a panoramic view of the retina, including the outer periphery. With this procedure, a doctor is able to detect tiny tears at the edge of the retina.

Medical Treatments

There are no drug treatments for detached retina. Depending on the extent of the retinal damage, several surgical treatments can be considered.

Laser Treatment. To repair a tear in the retina before it becomes detached, photocoagulation may be performed under a local anesthetic in the doctors office. A mirrored contact lens is placed in the patients eye, enabling the doctor to see where the retina is torn. The edges of the torn tissue receive laser bums. When the scar forms, it prevents any further leaking of vitreous humor from behind the retina.

Freezing. This outpatient procedure, technically called cryoretinopexy, is also performed under a local anesthetic. It has the same purpose as the laser treatment. The ophthalmologist uses a small frozen probe above the retinal tear to produce inflammation that eventually creates scar tissue.

Surgical Repair. An emergency operation is required to reattach i detached retina to the wall of the eye. Various methods may be used depending on how much fluid has seeped behind the retina and for how long the retina itself has been deprived of nourishment. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia in a hospital. Although the hospital stay may be brief, physical activities may have to be severely restricted and only after several weeks is it possible to assess how much sight has been restored.

Alternative Therapies

There are no alternative therapies for a detached retina, although relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and meditation can be helpful in managing stress that might lead to retinal detachment. These techniques are especially effective during the postsurgical period when physical movement must be kept to a minimum.

Self Treatment

To prevent injuries that might lead to retinal detachment, its a good idea to wear protective glasses when engaged in contact and racquet sports. Wraparound goggles should always be worn when working with such hazardous equipment as a blowtorch.

Other Causes of Retinal Detachment

Iritis, a serious eye inflammation, increases the possibility of developing a detached retina.

(*) This information came from a Reader's Digest book published in 1996. Unfortunately the name of the study or the study itself can't be located despite many searches on the web. While I have no reason to suspect the information is false, I have to acknowledge that with citing a source it can't be relied upon.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)


  1. about two years ago i had swimminers in my left eye....from a head trauma.....i live in an area with active volcanos and wonder if getting dust in the eye could cause this...
    just today...i started having swimmers in my right eye...i checked the symptoms for detached retina and it's probably high blood pressure...from too much nescafe...although my urine has too much uric acid..(smells funny) and there is tingling in my feet....

  2. Had a retinal tear after a fairly long term stressful circumstance.

    Would like to hear more about this study.

  3. Please can you send me the reference for the California study please?

    I have suffered extreme stress due to a recent bereavement and only weeks later have had retinal detachment.

    Thank you


    • I really think it's stress I had a total 4 retinal deattachment but no doctor wants to confirm that they say it's not

  4. I too would like the California Study. I had a "Stress Stroke" after an accident at work, and I had a large dark floater in my right eye the next morning and 6 months later I was diagnosed with a detached retina a a small hole in my retina, I believe it was caused by the major severe Stress, from my Stress Stoke one week after my accident. Thank You Ammon Fisher

  5. I was curious. I am 55 y.o. occupational therapist, very active,, long distance high speed cyclist active also with home life. Could this have caused my retinal detachment?
    Thanks for your opinion.

  6. My ophtalmologist does not see stress as a factor in either the detachment or in recovery. My doctor disagrees. I would like to see the "California" study referred to in your article.

  7. In California the study of 33 people with retinal detachment due to stress, where may I find this study? Please provide the reference for this statement.
    It would be helpful to me.
    Thank You.
    Debbie Berger

    • I too would appreciate you sending me the reference for this California study.


      Mike (one eye) Kory

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.