Retinal detachment happens when your retina (a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of your eye) is pulled away from its normal position.

There are 3 types of retinal detachment:

  • Rhegmatogenous (“reg-ma-TAH-juh-nus”)
  • Tractional
  • Exudative

Any type of retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If you have symptoms of a detached retina, it’s important to go to the eye doctor or the emergency room right away.

Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment

Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment is the most common type of retinal detachment. It can happen if you have a small tear or break in your retina.

When your retina has a tear or break, the gel-like fluid in the center of your eye (called vitreous) can get behind your retina. The vitreous then pushes your retina away from the back of your eye, causing it to detach.

What causes rhegmatogenous retinal detachment?

Aging is the most common cause of rhegmatogenous retinal detachment. As you get older, the vitreous in your eye may change in texture and may shrink. Sometimes, as it shrinks, the vitreous can pull on your retina and tear it.

Other things that can increase your risk of rhegmatogenous retinal detachment are eye injuries, eye surgery, and nearsightedness.

Tractional retinal detachment

Tractional retinal detachment happens if scar tissue on your retina pulls your retina away from the back of your eye.

What causes tractional retinal detachment?

The most common cause of tractional retinal detachment is diabetes. If you have high blood sugar from diabetes, the blood vessels in the back of your eye can become damaged and scar your retina. As the scars get bigger, they can pull on your retina and detach it from the back of your eye.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Managing your diabetes — by staying physically active, eating healthy foods, and taking your medicine — can also help you prevent or delay vision loss.

Other causes of tractional retinal detachment include eye diseases, eye infections, and swelling (inflammation) in the eye.

Exudative retinal detachment

Exudative retinal detachment happens when fluid builds up behind your retina, but there aren’t any tears or breaks in your retina. If enough fluid gets trapped behind your retina, it can push your retina away from the back of your eye and cause it to detach.

What causes exudative retinal detachment?

The most common causes of exudative retinal detachment are leaking blood vessels or swelling in the back of the eye.

There are several things that can cause leaking blood vessels or swelling in your eye:

  • Injury or trauma to your eye
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Tumors in your eye
  • Diseases that cause inflammation inside the eye
  • Coats disease, a rare eye disorder
Last updated: July 9, 2019