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The vitreous is a clear liquid that fills our eyes and gives them shape. When we are young, the vitreous has a thick, gelatinous consistency and is firmly attached to the retina. As we age, the vitreous thins and separates from the retina, which can sometimes lead to a tearing or detaching of the retina. Retinal detachment can cause significant, permanent vision loss and requires immediate medical treatment.
Signs of retinal tear or detachment include flashes of light, a group or web of floaters, wavy or watery vision, a sense that there is a veil or curtain obstructing peripheral vision, or a sudden drop in vision quality.
A retinal tear or detachment may occur as a result of an injury to the eye or very high levels of nearsightedness. It may also occur as a complication of cataract surgery, LASIK, tumors and diseases such as diabetes and sickle cell disease.
If a torn or detached retina is suspected, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Your doctor will examine your eye with an ophthalmoscope and may also perform ultrasonography in order to reach an accurate diagnosis.
To prevent permanent vision loss, the retina must be quickly reattached. Treatment for retinal detachment can be done through surgery or laser photocoagulation. These procedures can preserve vision and also allow for a return of lost vision in some patients.