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The retina is the light sensitive tissue layer at the back of the eye. The cones and rods of the retina send electrical messages of what is seen along the optic nerve to the brain where they are interpreted into the images we see.

When a retinal detachment develops a separation occurs between the retina and the eye wall at the back of the eye. The part that is detached (peeled off) will not work properly and the picture the brain receives becomes patchy or may be lost completely. An operation is necessary to replace the detached retina in the correct position.

People often describe seeing "something black" or "a curtain", "cobweb" or "flashing lights". In older people, these do not necessarily indicate a serious problem, but the sudden appearance of floaters and flashes requires a full eye examination to exclude the presence of retinal holes or tears.
What causes a retinal detachment?
Nearly all retinal detachments develop because of a hole or tear in the retina. This usually occurs when the retina becomes 'thin', which can occur in short sighted people, or if the vitreous (the jelly-like substance that fills the eye) separates from the retina. Other eye or health problems such as diabetes and injuries, a blow to the eye or cataract operations, can occasionally lead to a retinal detachment.
If you have a suspected retinal detachment you must go to an emergency department as soon as possible. You will need a sight test and full eye examination. Your vision will be blurred temporarily due to eye drops and prevent you from reading and driving. You must avoid driving whenever you have your retinas examined.

If you are diagnosed with a retinal detachment, you will be advised to have surgery as soon as possible to reattach the retina.
Depending on the causes and condition of the retinal detachment there are a range of treatment options:
A retinal hole or tear
To seal the retina around the tear and prevent the retina peeling off you may be asked to have:
Laser - the retinal hole can be heat sealed by directing a laser beam through the pupil of the eye. The scar produced seals the hole.
OR Cryotherapy - a freezing treatment applied by a pen shaped probe to the outside of the eye. This freezes through to the retinal hole and, as with laser treatment, promotes scar tissue as a seal.
These procedures can be a little uncomfortable but not painful and are usually performed under a local anaesthetic. They are only effective for retinal holes or tears. A detached retina
In addition to the above treatments this may require more complicated operations and procedures, such as the encircling band or sponge or vitrectomy. These procedures require a general anaesthetic and a 2-3 day stay in hospital.