The symptoms of retinal detachment


Retinal detachment describes the detachment of the inner layer of the retina from the so-called retinal pigment epithelium, which is the base. This means that the light stimuli that hit the retina can no longer be processed. Impaired vision occurs.

Retinal detachment is an emergency and should be treated surgically immediately, as otherwise there is a risk of blindness of the eye. For this reason, it is particularly important to correctly interpret the corresponding symptoms and to visit an eye clinic as soon as possible.

Overview of symptoms

The following symptoms can indicate the onset of retinal detachment:

  • Flicker: It creates glowing points that move up and down. They are caused by irritation of the vitreous humor on the retina.
  • Flashes when moving the head: The appearance of these flashes is caused by increased pull of the vitreous humor on the retina.
    This tension arises from a reduction in the size of the vitreous from the age of about 40 or from sudden violence, such as an accident. Those affected can often observe the lightning bolts with their eyes closed.
  • Soot rain: This symptom appears like black rain and occurs when a blood vessel is ruptured.
  • Shadow: As soon as the vitreous humor tears a hole in the retina, liquid can penetrate, which is perceived as a dark curtain or a shadow at the edge of the field of vision.

Find out all about the topic here: The retinal detachment.

The specific symptoms

The flicker as a symptom

The flickering of the eye is an early symptom. It is a visual phenomenon that occurs at the edge of the field of vision. Affected patients report seeing glowing points that move. The flickering usually occurs suddenly and can worsen over time.

Retinal detachment is usually caused by a tear in the retina. The reason for this is the lifting of the vitreous. The vitreous is a jelly-like substance that fills the posterior chamber of the eye. The detachment creates a pull that causes the retina to detach. As a result, light stimuli can no longer be processed properly. Misinterpretations result in the form of visual phenomena. In addition to flickering, flashes of light and shadows can also occur.

In addition, fibrillation can also occur with other diseases and is even more typical of them. A classic example of this is migraine. The cause here is incorrect processing of information in the brain. A stroke can also lead to incorrect processing due to a circulatory disorder. In addition to paralysis and speech disorders, visual disorders can also occur here. But other eye diseases can also cause these symptoms. A retina with poor blood supply due to diabetes mellitus, for example, can also trigger fibrillation and should definitely be examined by an ophthalmologist.

Also read the article: The stroke in the eye.

The flashes of light as a symptom

Flashes of light (Latin: photopsia) are a classic symptom that accompanies retinal detachment. The lightning bolts also belong to the early symptoms and should definitely be clarified by an ophthalmologist.

The lifting of the vitreous (jelly-like substance in the eyeball) creates a pull on the retina, which leads to tears. This is how the retina comes off. In addition, the retina is irritated by the pull and visual phenomena arise in the form of photopsias. Photopsias can also occur in the dark and are perceived as unpleasant by the affected patients.

In the diagnosis, other diseases should be taken into account - especially neurological diseases should be clarified. A classic neurological disease in this context is migraine, which is also announced in the form of flashes of light.

This article might also interest you: The migraines.

The soot rain as a symptom

Soot rain is also a classic symptom of retinal detachment. However, it usually occurs later. This is caused by injuries to the retinal vessels, which lead to bleeding. As part of a retinal detachment, the pull can tear them.

This fine bleeding is perceived as black dots that move in the field of vision. Affected patients describe this as a kind of soot rain or a swarm of flying mosquitoes.

The shadow as a symptom

The shadow is created by the detachment of the retina and leads to loss of visual field. This means that special areas, such as the view to the outside, are restricted. Due to the detachment of the retina, the cells are no longer adequately supplied with oxygen and die. The processing of light stimuli can no longer take place - there is a loss of function. Failure to act immediately will lead to irreversible blindness of the eye.

In addition to the shadows, blurred vision can also occur. This occurs when the retina is detached in the macula area. The macula represents the place of sharpest vision, as there are a particularly large number of sensory cells. The more sensory cells go under, the more the vision is impaired.

Find out all about the topic here: The therapy of a retinal detachment.

The duration of the symptoms

No general statement can be made about the duration of the symptoms, as it depends on the one hand on the cause of the retinal detachment and on the other hand on the extent of the damage. A small tear in the retina can remain asymptomatic for a long time, whereas a tear in the macula (the place of sharpest vision) is noticed quickly and can quickly, within a few hours, lead to a loss of function of the eye.

The faster you operate, the better the prognosis. Symptoms such as flashes of light and soot rain recede after a successful operation. However, blurred vision may persist - this depends on the location of the retinal detachment. If you have already had an operation and some symptoms still exist, you should consult your ophthalmologist for more precise information.

Also read the article: The operation for a retinal detachment.

When should you see a doctor?

If lightning occurs only once, it is still considered a normal natural process and not something to worry about. However, if several of the symptoms mentioned suddenly appear, an ophthalmologist must be consulted urgently within the same day, who must clarify the cause of the symptoms. With some forms of retinal detachment, only a shadow appears, but with the majority of retinal detachments, lightning flashes first, then the so-called "soot rain" and then the shadows.

Often the "black soot rain" is confused with a harmless cloudiness floating around in front of the eye. These are point-like, thread-like or cobweb-like opacities that move in the field of vision. These gray streaks occur in many people and are harmless. They can be distinguished from soot rain by the fact that they swing with your gaze and, if you keep your eye still, lurch a little. To be sure that it is only this harmless cloudiness, a retinal check should be carried out by an ophthalmologist.

If the center of the retina, i.e. the point of sharpest vision (Macula) is affected, the increasing deterioration in vision increases to such an extent that it is only possible to differentiate between light and dark.

Quick action is therefore absolutely necessary if retinal detachment is suspected, because in the event of retinal detachment, the retina is lifted from the choroid directly below it and thus the supply to the retina is interrupted. If this condition persists, the retina can suffer irreversible damage and blindness in the affected eye cannot be ruled out.