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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 or serious vision changes. If you have symptoms of a tear or detachment, contact your eye care provider right away. If you can't reach your eye care provider, 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” on the sides or in the middle of your field of vision

  • A sudden increase in floaters, flashes, and blurry vision in one or both eyes

Symptoms of a tear

If you have a tear, you may notice:

  • Sudden floaters that look like spots or threads in your vision

  • Sudden flashes that look like bursts of light in your vision

  • Sudden blurry vision

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