Retinal detachment is a separation of the retina from its connection at the back of the eye. The separation usually results from a tear (that is, a rent or rip) in the retina, which often occurs when the vitreous gel pulls loose or separates from its attachment to the retina. Once the retina has torn, the vitreous liquid can pass through the tear and accumulate behind the retina. The build-up of fluid behind the retina is what separates (detaches) the retina from the back of the eye. Vision loss occurs if the detached retina is not repaired. Early detection and treatment of retinal detachment are critical to prevent significant long-term vision loss.
Treatment options depend on the location and size of the retinal detachment. A small retinal detachment can be treated with laser alone, or in-office gas bubble, or both. A larger retinal detachment requires surgery to reattach the retina along with laser treatment and gas bubble. Sometimes an elastic band around the eye called scleral buckle is necessary. The gas bubble gets absorbed over several weeks. Until the gas bubble disappears, flying must be avoided to prevent gas expansion at high elevation that can cause eye damage from increased eye pressure.