Sudden flashes of light in the eye may indicate a torn or detached retina, according to Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms include the appearance of small bits of debris that look like strings, hairs or spots or the development of a curtain or shadow over the field of vision.
Retinal detachment does not cause pain, but it is an emergency situation that requires urgent care, since permanent loss of vision can occur if treatment is not sought right away, warns Mayo Clinic. Detachment is usually caused by the contraction or shrinking of the vitreous, which is a gel-like matter that fills the interior of the eye. When the vitreous shrinks or contracts, it tugs on the retina and can cause tearing that leads to detachment of the retina. Other causes of shrinkage and contraction include advanced diabetes, inflammatory eye disorders and eye injuries.
Aging can also contribute to retinal detachment, according to Mayo Clinic. As the eye ages, the retina becomes thinner and more susceptible to tears. When a tear occurs, vitreous fluid can leak through the tear and collect beneath the retina.
Treatment for retinal detachment includes freezing or laser therapy to repair the tear or injection of a gas bubble into the eye to close the tear, notes WebMD. Replacement of the vitreous with saline solution is another option.