What Is Retinal Detachment & What Are Its Signs?

Retinal Imaging

What Is Retinal Detachment & What Are Its Signs?

Retinal detachment is a serious condition that occurs when the thin layer of tissue called the retina; detaches from the back of the eye. If left untreated, a retinal detachment can lead to permanent loss of vision; but if treated in a timely manner then vision loss can be limited or if not prevented all together. A retinal detachment is especially concerning since it is painless and could be difficult to detect for someone who does not know the signs.

If you are at risk for a retinal detachment, then it is important that you know the signs and symptoms so that you can get prompt treatment and minimize the effects of this condition. Read on to learn about the common symptoms of retinal detachment.

1. Seeing Floaters & Spider Webs

Eye floaters or spider webs appear as specks or strings that move through your field of vision without corresponding to external objects. You may see floaters in your vision for a variety of reasons, but combined with other symptoms such as flashes of light could signal a retinal detachment. If you are experiencing floaters or spider webs in your vision and are at risk for a retinal detachment, or notice it is accompanied by other symptoms, seek care immediately.

2. Seeing Flashes of Light

Eye flashes occur when something other than light stimulates the retina, which is the light-seeing structure at the back of the eye. Flashes of light are pinpricks or spots of light that you see in your field of vision. Patients often say that flashes of light are like seeing “shooting stars” or “lightning streaks.” Usually, flashes of light appear and then fade quickly; but if these bright spots, lines or patches appear and stay in place for a period of time then this may be related to a migraine aura or a symptoms of another condition. If you are experiencing flashes of light alongside floaters, a curtain coming down, or other warning symptoms, visit an emergency room immediately.

3. Seeing a “Curtain” Come Down

Seeing a curtain coming down in front of your field of vision is a serious concern and should prompt an immediate visit to an optometrist.  A curtain coming down in the eye may appear as if a veil has been pulled across your field of vision, or as if your vision has gone grey/black—similar to if a curtain has fallen across your eyes. Seeing a curtain come down over your eyes may or may not be accompanied by other symptoms of retinal detachment… if you are experiencing this symptom, it is important to see your doctor immediately.

Risk Factors

Certain factors will put you at a higher risk for a retinal detachment. If you fall into any of these risk groups, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of retinal detachment so you can seek prompt care if you begin to experience the above symptoms:

  • Have previously experienced a retinal detachment
  • Have a family history of retinal detachment
  • Are extremely nearsighted/myopic
  • Have had eye surgery or a severe eye injury
  • Are over the age of 50
  • Suffer with other eye conditions including retinoschisis, uveitis or thinning of the peripheral retina


If you believe that you may be experiencing retinal detachment, this is an emergency. Head to your local emergency room for an assessment—you may need surgery to correct the issue. If you are at risk for retinal detachment, be sure to have regular check-ups with your optometrist. They will be able to use special imaging software to check your retina and catch any early warning signs of retinal detachment. If treated, damage from a retinal tear can be minimized.

The optometry team at Dr D’Orio Eyecare can assist you with your vision needs. To book an appointment visit https://drdorioeyecare.com/book-appointment or call us at 416 656 2020 for our Toronto location, or 416 661 5555 for North York.

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