A retinal detachment can be caused by an injury to the eye or a disease that affects the eye, such as diabetic retinopathy. Injury or inflammation causes the retina at the back of the eye to pull away from the support tissue and blood vessels, requiring quick medical attention.
Retinal detachment is sometimes preceded by posterior vitreous detachment. This occurs when the vitreous membrane inside the eye pulls away from the retina, reducing the amount of support the layer of tissue has to keep it in place. Symptoms of a vitreous detachment include flashes of light within the eye and an increase in transparent "floaters" in the patient's vision. These symptoms can be harmless, and can be a natural product of aging, but a sudden change in vision should be reported to an opthalmologist immediately.
When a retinal detachment occurs, it may present itself as a dark curtain that falls over the patient's vision, especially obscuring the center of the field of view. It may also cause distortions in focus, causing straight lines to appear curved or blurred.
Early detection of a vitreous or retinal detachment greatly improves the chances of a full recovery. Small tears in the retina can be repaired with laser surgery, and even major detachments can be repaired if caught early enough.