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HealthSheets™

What Are Retinal Tears and Detachments?

The retina is the inside lining of the eye. It turns light into nerve signals. These signals are then sent to the brain where they become the images you see. The retina may be torn or detached due to aging, an eye injury, or other problems. Tears and detachments are painless. But they often cause troubling vision changes. If you have symptoms of a tear or detachment, contact your eye doctor immediately. If you cannot reach your eye doctor, go to the emergency room. Retinal detachment is a medical emergency.

Three-quarter view of cross-sectioned eye showing detached retina.

Three-quarter view of cross-sectioned eye showing shrinking vitreous pulling on retina.

Symptoms of a detachment

If you have a detachment, you may notice:

  • A shadow or “curtain” across your vision.

  • Signs of a tear: floaters, flashes, and blurry vision

Symptoms of a tear

If you have a tear, you may notice:

  • Floaters which look like spots or threads in your vision

  • Flashes which look like bursts of light in your vision

  • Sudden blurry vision

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.