A detached retina is an emergency. If not treated promptly, you may completely lose eyesight.

A detached retina is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. This injury happens when the retina, a thin layer of tissue at the back of your eye that processes light, pulls away from its normal position.

If left untreated, you can completely lose sight in the affected eye. This is why you have to get treatment as soon as possible.

This article explores the chances of going blind from retinal detachment, how much time you have to get treated, and whether treatment can restore eyesight. We also cover warning signs, preparing for surgery, and what to avoid.

Medical emergency

Call an eye care professional or go to the nearest emergency room right away if you suspect one of your retinas has detached. Early symptoms include:

If you experience these symptoms after injuring your face, it’s especially important to get help right away.

The risk of blindness due to a detached retina is very real and can happen quickly. The retina is a critical part of your eye, and when it detaches, it’s an emergency that demands immediate attention.

But if you seek immediate treatment, the likelihood of going blind from retinal detachment is relatively low. A 2021 review of nearly 7,000 participants with retinal detachment reveals that less than 7% went permanently blind.

The speed at which vision loss occurs can vary. It can depend on many things, including environmental factors, where exactly your retina has started to detach, and if you do activities that may increase detachment.

Some anecdotal sources mention that you could lose sight within hours of retinal detachment, while others say it can take a few days.

The retina is a vital part of your eye. If you experience any symptoms that could mean your retina has detached, call an eye care professional immediately, as this is a medical emergency. If they’re not available, go to the nearest emergency room.

It depends.

Usually, with prompt treatment, a surgeon can help restore eyesight. For example, if you have blurry vision, this can improve with time after treatment.

But the longer you wait before treatment, the harder it can be to reattach the retina and the higher the chance of permanent vision loss. If the macula of the retina has become detached, there’s a higher chance that your vision may not recover completely. The macula, part of the retina, is the part of your eye that processes what’s directly in front of you (your central vision).

Early symptoms of a detached retina include:

  • New floaters: These appear as small dark spots or squiggly lines that seem to float across your field of vision. If you suddenly notice a lot of new floaters, it could be a symptom of a detached retina.
  • Flashes of light: Some people with detached retinas see sudden light flashes. These tend to look similar to seeing stars after being hit in the eye.
  • A shadow or curtain over your vision: This can start as a dark shadow in your side vision and gradually extend toward the center. People often describe it as a curtain being drawn across your field of vision.
  • Blurred vision: A decline in visual clarity, making it hard to focus on an object or person, could also suggest retinal detachment.

While waiting for retinal detachment surgery, there are several steps you can take to prepare and ensure the best possible outcome:

  • Learn more: Understanding your condition and the upcoming procedure can help reduce anxiety and enable you to make better decisions.
  • Follow the doctor’s instructions: These may include resting your eyes, avoiding certain activities, and taking prescription medications.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of rest can support your body’s healing process.
  • Seek emotional support: Connecting with loved ones or joining a support group can provide emotional comfort.
  • Prepare your home: Adjust your living space for postsurgery recovery, such as improving lighting conditions and reducing tripping hazards.

While it might be tempting to read up extensively or watch TV to pass the time, giving your eyes ample rest before surgery is crucial. In addition, avoid dirty environments that might increase the risk of infection.

Depending on your overall health, you may need a personalized preparation plan. Discuss this with a doctor to prepare for a successful outcome.

Here are some things you should avoid:

  • Don’t ignore the symptoms: As soon as you notice symptoms such as floaters, flashes of light, or a shadow in your vision, seek medical help immediately.
  • Avoid strenuous activities: Activities that involve heavy lifting or vigorous head movements can increase pressure on the eye and potentially worsen the detachment.
  • Don’t skip medications: If the doctor prescribes medications, make sure to take them as directed.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes: This can increase retina pressure and may cause further damage.
  • Don’t delay surgery: Once you receive a retinal detachment diagnosis, you’ll need to get treatment or surgery immediately.

Retinal detachment is a medical emergency. Left untreated, you could permanently lose your eyesight. But with prompt treatment, you may restore and save your sight.

If you notice symptoms of retinal detachment, contact your eye care professional. If you don’t have an eye care professional or they’re unable to see you immediately, have someone take you to the nearest emergency room.