Retinal detachment - Symptoms 

Symptoms of retinal detachment 

Initial symptoms of retinal detachment include the sudden appearance of floaters – black dots, specks or streaks that float across your field of vision.

Some people experience a kind of cobweb effect of lots of little floaters, while others report a single large black floater that looks like a housefly.

Usually only one eye is affected by floaters.

Another common symptom is seeing flashes of light in the affected eye. These last no more than a second.

You may also experience some blurring or distortion of your vision.

Without treatment, you will go on to experience increasing loss of vision in the affected eye. Most people describe this as a shadow or "black curtain" spreading across their vision.

When to seek medical advice

If you experience these warning signs, contact your GP immediately for advice. If this is not possible, telephone NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or your local out-of-hours service for advice.


Page last reviewed: 09/01/2013

Next review due: 09/01/2015


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 99 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Wiccy13 said on 17 December 2013

I have my annual, diabetic eye test 2moro, and am very worried that they have gotten worse, I have had all these symptoms, and just this week had the black curtain effect that to say the least was startling, no pain though, but they said i had mild retinopathy in both eyes last year which didnt need treatment, Im hoping its not the above :(

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

CassH said on 19 February 2012

I have recently undergone surgery for a detached retina. I had "classic" symptoms, ie floaters and flashing lights but confused this with pre-migraine symptoms. I left it for 3 days hoping the loss of vision would recover and not believing for a minute it could be a reitnal detachement.

Fortunately i got to the surgeons in time and am recovering well. I don't think enough is known about this condition in the general population and that it can happen spontaneously and in young(ish) people. I am 41 with moderate mild myopia.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Pete h said on 05 October 2011

I've recently had a partial detatched retina in my left eye but didn't experience any of the classic symptoms listed above. I began to notice a slight deterioration in my eyesight (I was short sighted) then specifically experienced a slight distortion in the top right quadrant of the eye - both horizontal and vertical lines in that position had "kinks" in them.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Will it affect both eyes?

Retinal detachment often only occurs in one eye. If your eye is affected, there is a one in 10 chance that retinal detachment will happen in your other eye.

Look after your eyes

Why regular eye tests are important and how a healthy lifestyle can help you maintain good vision