Retinal detachment is uncommon but may be very severe when it happens. Often a person may be aware of symptoms that indicate a detachment is happening, yet they do not realise the significance of the symptoms and do nothing about them. There is no pain with detachment and the eye does not go red or look in any way different from the outside.
The main symptoms are an increase in the severity of floaters, flashing lights, and a shadow in the vision. We all have some black dots and spots floating in the vision. These are imperfections and condensations in the vitreous jelly in the eye and are of no significance. Retinal detachment is often preceded by a partial separation of the jelly from the retina, and this may dramatically increase the number, size and severity of floaters. In other words, a sudden change in floaters may be significant and it is advisable to see an eye specialist if this occurs.
Flashing light in the “corners” of the eye, often best seen at night after the lights have been turned off, are also an indicating that the jelly is more mobile in the eye – again, see an eye doctor if the symptoms start.
Once a retinal detachment is developing the vision starts to be affected. The most common description that patients give is that there appears to be a “smudge” or “thumbprint” in the vision – it is just not clear. Later the impression may be of a curtain being drawn across the vision. Clearly this is serious and immediate eye consultation is needed.