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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What causes retinal detachment?

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    A/Prof Diane Webster

    Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

    Dr Diane Webster is an ophthalmologist who attends the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. View Profile

    The retina is the delicate lining on the inside of the back of the eye. It contains photoreceptors ( the rods and cones) that detect light, dark and colour). It is also responsible for transmitting the received light signals to the optic nerve so the visual messages can then be relayed to the brain for interpretation and processing.
    Retinal detachment occurs usually if a tear forms in the peripheral retina. This may happen as a result of an injury ( blunt trauma with a ball, a fall or an object directly hitting the eye). It may happen as an ageing change and/or if you are very short sighted ( myopic) or you have some other less common changes in your eye that may predispose to or increase your chances of developing a retinal detachment.
    The symptoms of a retinal detachement are flashes and floaters, shadows over the vision or blurred vision. It is a painless condition. If you are experiencing flashes and floaters it does not mean you definitely have a retinal detachment. It may be a more common ageing change that occurs in many people after 40 years of age called posterior vitreous detachment. This is a benign condition and generally resolves spontaneously with time. However only an eye care professional, Optometrist or Ophthalmologist can distinguish between these two conditions. So if you are do notice the recent onset of flashes and floaters it is essential you have a thorough eye examination by your local optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
    If  a retinal detachment is detected by your eye care professional, you will be referred for eye surgery by a specialist retinal surgeon.

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