The retina (a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of your eye) can sometimes develop a small hole or tear because of aging, certain illnesses, or an eye injury. If it’s not treated, a retinal tear can lead to retinal detachment — a medical emergency that happens when your retina is pulled away from its normal position.

There are 2 ways that your eye doctor can fix holes or tears in your retina:

  • Laser surgery (photocoagulation)
  • Freeze treatment (cryopexy)

If your eye doctor finds a tear or small hole in your retina, they can use one of these treatments to prevent your retina from detaching. Which treatment you’ll need depends on the location of the tear in your retina. You can get either of these treatments at your eye doctor’s office.

Doctors also use these treatments as part of surgery to repair a detached retina.

Laser surgery (photocoagulation)

With this treatment, your doctor will shine a medical laser inside your eye and make small burns around the tear or hole in your retina. The burns create small scars that fix the tear and help hold your retina in place.

When you get this treatment, your doctor will:

  • Put numbing medicine in your eye to keep you comfortable during the treatment
  • Shine the laser through the pupil of your eye to seal the tear in your retina

You may see a flashing light when your doctor uses the laser.

After this treatment, your doctor may give you special eye drops to help keep your eye from swelling. You may need to avoid some activities, like vigorous exercise or heavy lifting, while your eye heals.

Freeze treatment (cryopexy)

Another way your doctor can treat a tear or hole in your retina is by using a freezing probe (a small tool that gets very cold) directly over the tear on the outside of your eye (the white part). The cold from the freezing probe makes a scar form around the tear in your retina and helps keep it in place.

When you get this treatment, your doctor will:

  • Put numbing medicine in your eye to keep you comfortable during the treatment
  • Touch the white part of your eye closest to the tear in your retina with a freezing probe

You may feel some cold or pressure when your doctor uses the freezing probe.

After this treatment, your doctor may give you special eye drops to help keep your eye from swelling. You may need to avoid some activities, like vigorous exercise or heavy lifting, while your eye heals.

Last updated: June 26, 2019