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 healthcare provider immediately. If you cannot reach your eye healthcare 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” across your vision.

  • Floaters, flashes, and blurry vision

Symptoms of a tear

If you have a tear, you may notice:

  • Floaters that look like spots or threads in your vision

  • Flashes that look like bursts of light in your vision

  • Sudden blurry vision