Retinal Tear

What Causes a Retinal Tear?

A sudden increase in floaters (drifting spots, hairs, cobwebs in the vision) with or without accompanying flashes of light, usually indicates that the vitreous gel filling the back of the eye has separated from the retina (the inner lining of the back wall of the eye). This is known as a posterior vitreous detachment and occurs naturally, usually between the ages of 50 and 70. Most of the time, when a vitreous detachment occurs, no damage results and no treatment is required.


The symptoms may gradually subside over several weeks, although it is not unusual to have persistent floaters in the vision. In about ten percent of cases, a vitreous detachment can lead to a tear in the retina which, if not treated, can lead to a retinal detachment. Retinal tears and detachments can affect anyone, but they are more common in nearsighted people and in those with a family history of these problems.


Retinal detachments, if not treated promptly, can lead to serious permanent loss of vision. It is imperative that a patient is seen by an ophthalmologist promptly if new floaters, flashes, or shadows develop. If a tear is present and is diagnosed and treated quickly, retinal detachment can be prevented. When a retinal tear is discovered, it can be treated in an office setting with retinal laser or freezing treatments.This treatment creates a scar around the tear that can prevent subsequent development of retinal detachment.