Retinal Tear vs. Retinal Detachment By Eric Del Piero on March 02, 2021

Illustration of the retinaThe retina is a thin layer of light-sensitive tissues that lines the back of the eye. The retinas receive and organize visual information, and then send that information to the brain through the optic nerves. A functioning retina is essential to clear eyesight.

At Monterey County Eye Associates, our doctors offer a comprehensive range of retinal care to treat eye diseases and conditions that threaten the retina, including retinal tears and retinal detachment. Successful retinal treatment for our Monterey, Salinas, and King City, CA patients often depends on an accurate diagnosis. Here we explain the key differences regarding retinal tears and detachment, and how they may be effectively treated.

What Is a Retinal Tear?

A retinal tear is a small rip or opening that forms in the tissues of the retina. If there is a retinal tear, the retina remains attached to the back of the eye, but the portion that is torn may pull away.

Retinal tears are not as serious as retinal detachment, but they can lead to retinal detachment if they are not treated properly. Retinal tears most often form when the vitreous gel within the eye pulls on the retina and gradually weakens it. Retinal tears can also be the result of an eye injury.

Retinal Tear Symptoms

Retinal tear symptoms depend on the severity of the condition. Some people may not experience any noticeable changes in their vision, while others suffer from:

  • Spots, flashes, or floaters in the field of vision
  • Darker or dimmer vision
  • Diminished peripheral vision
  • Blurry vision

Retinal Tear Treatment

If a retinal tear is minor, it may not require any treatment. Instead, our doctors will continually monitor the tear to see if it heals on its own.

More severe tears can be treated with laser therapy or cryotherapy (a freezing procedure). These treatments essentially weld the damaged part of the retina back in place and prevent the tear from progressing further.

What is Retinal Detachment?

Retinal detachment is a complete separation of the retinal lining from the back of the eye. Like retinal tears, retinal detachment can be caused by physical trauma, but it is more often related to the vitreous gel in the eye. The vitreous gel can tug on the retina and cause it to partially or fully detach. Once part of the retina is detached, vitreous gel can get between the retina and the back of the eye, leading to a complete detachment.

Retinal Detachment Symptoms

Retinal detachment symptoms are nearly identical to retinal tear symptoms. They can result in blurry vision, the appearance of flashes, floaters, or spots in the field of vision, a darkening of the vision, or a loss of peripheral vision. The only difference is that retinal tears may not cause immediate symptoms and retinal detachment usually does.

Retinal Detachment Treatment

If retinal detachment is not treated, it can lead to permanent vision loss. Sometimes retinal detachment can be treated using the same laser or cryotherapy that is used to treat a retinal tear. However, a more severe detachment may require surgery to ensure that the retina is put back in its proper position.

Schedule an Appointment

If you have experienced any changes in vision, it is vital that you have the eyes examined as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage. To schedule an appointment at Monterey County Eye Associates, contact us online or call (831) 424-1150.

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The team of doctors at Monterey County Eye Associates

Monterey County Eye Associates
Monterey Bay Eye Center

Our team of ophthalmologists provides state-of-the-art eye care using the latest technology. They are proud to be affiliated with: 

  • AAO: American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • ABO: American Board of Ophthalmology

To schedule an appointment at one of our four ophthalmologist office locations in Monterey, Salinas, and King City, contact us online or call (831) 424-1150.

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Eric J. Del Piero, MD

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