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Detached retina symptoms and warning signs

Signs of retinal detachment include floaters and shadowed vision

Retinal detachment symptoms are almost never painful. They usually affect your field of vision instead. Either way, a detached retina constitutes a medical emergency and calls for a trip to the eye doctor as soon as possible.

A smaller retinal detachment can even be completely symptom-free, but it is still just as serious as a detachment with symptoms. Regular eye exams help eye doctors spot the early warning signs of a detached retina before it detaches or tears.

When visible signs are present, detached retina symptoms may include:

  • Eye floaters: tiny spots or wavy lines that drift across your field of view

  • Flashes or flickers of light in your vision

  • Blurry vision

  • A shadow or “curtain” growing over your vision

  • Worsening side (peripheral) vision

SEE RELATED: What is retinal detachment?

Be mindful of floaters, flashes and changes in vision

While visual shadows and disappearing peripheral vision tend to be very noticeable, other warning signs can be more subtle.

Eye floaters and flashes are often benign, meaning they aren’t usually a cause for concern. While floaters resemble tiny dots or pieces of fuzz in your view, flashes resemble the sensation of “seeing stars.” They can occur with age, injury or as the result of posterior vitreous detachment.

However, they can also be symptoms of detached retina or a retinal tear. If you notice a sudden increase in floaters or flashes, contact an eye doctor as soon as possible.

With either condition, the faster you can get treated, the better. Your chances of experiencing some level of permanent vision loss tends to go up as more time passes.

Surgery is currently the only way to treat a detached retina. There are three types of surgery for retinal detachment. Sometimes, multiple procedures are performed during the same operation.

SEE RELATED: Types of retinal detachment

Schedule an appointment with your eye doctor

Annual comprehensive eye exams allow an eye doctor to spot any signs of a retinal issue as early as possible, even without any noticeable symptoms. They will be able to monitor the health of your retinas and inform you about any elevated risks in the future.

If you do notice visible symptoms of retinal detachment or experience any other eye pain or vision changes, schedule an appointment as soon as possible as, once again, retinal detachment is an emergency situation.

If an eye doctor suspects a torn or detached retina, you may be referred to a retinal specialist — an ophthalmologist who specializes in retinal disorders and can perform surgery if needed.

SEE MORE: When to visit a retina specialist

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