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Detached retina

The most common cause of retinal detachment is tiny breaks developing inside the retina.

The most common cause of retinal detachment is tiny breaks developing inside the retina.

The breaks allow the fluid found between the retina and the lens of the eye to leak underneath the retina.

A build-up of fluid can cause the retina to pull away from the blood vessels that supply it with blood. Without a constant blood supply, the nerve cells inside the retina will die.

These breaks are thought to develop as a result of:

  • posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) – a normal ageing phenomenon where the gel of the eye pulls off from the retina
  • thinning of the retina

Very short-sighted people have the greatest risk of developing age-related retinal detachment because they're often born with a thinner than normal retina in the first place, though the risk is still very small.

Previous eye surgery, such as cataract removal, may also make the retina more vulnerable to damage.

In some cases, a tear can develop if the eye is suddenly injured, such as by a punch to the face.

Less common causes

Less common causes of retinal detachment include:

  • damage to the blood vessels in your eye causes scar tissue to form, which can pull the retina out of position – this is usually the result of a complication of diabetes called diabetic retinopathy
  • the retina remains unbroken, but fluid from other areas gathers behind it – this sometimes happens in conditions that cause inflammation and swelling inside the eye, such as uveitis and some rare types of eye cancer
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