Causes of retinal detachment 

The most common cause of retinal detachment is when tiny holes develop inside the retina.

The holes allow the fluid found between the retina and the lens of the eye to leak underneath the retina.

If too much fluid builds up underneath the retina it can cause the retina to pull away from the blood vessels that supply it with blood. Without a constant blood supply, the nerve cells inside the retina will begin to die.

The main reason for these holes developing is thought to be because the retina becomes narrower and weakened with age.

People who are very short-sighted have the greatest risk of developing age-related retinal detachment (though in relative terms the risk is still very small) because they are often born with a thinner than normal retina in the first place.

Previous eye surgery, such as cataract removal, may also make the retina more vulnerable to damage.

In some cases, holes can develop if the eye is suddenly injured, such as by a punch to the face or being accidentally hit in the eye with a flying object.

Less common causes

Less common causes of retinal detachment include:

  • Damage to the blood vessels in your eye causes scar tissue to form, which can pull the retina out of position. This is usually the result of a complication of diabetes, called diabetic retinopathy.
  • The retina remains unbroken but fluid from other sources gathers behind the retina. This can sometimes occur in conditions that cause inflammation and swelling inside the eye, such as uveitis and some rare types of cancer that develop inside the eye.

Page last reviewed: 09/01/2013

Next review due: 09/01/2015