There are three types of retinal detachment, in which the eye’s retina, or the layer of nerve tissue in the back of the eye, peels away from the underlying supportive tissue. NYU Langone doctors can diagnose and recommend treatment for each type.
A rhegmatogenous retinal detachment is the most common type. It occurs over time and is due to a retinal tear.
The vitreous—the clear, gel-like substance that fills much of the eye and gives it its round shape—is attached to the surface of the retina. As you age, the sac that contains the vitreous shrinks and begins to liquefy. As it does so, it may separate from the surface of the retina, a condition known as posterior vitreous detachment.
Usually, the vitreous separates without a tear or retinal detachment, but sometimes as it peels away from the retina, it may cause a rip or tear.
Most people with a retinal tear don’t experience retinal detachment. But if the vitreous seeps through the break or tear in the retina and settles underneath it, the retina may detach from underlying tissues.
Exudative retinal detachment occurs when fluid accumulates underneath the retina but without a retinal tear. This condition is most commonly associated with inflammatory conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus or sarcoidosis, or with cancerous tumors such as metastases or intraocular melanoma of the eye. Exudative retinal detachment can occur in both eyes.
Tractional retinal detachment occurs when the vitreous pulls on the retina and develops scars over time, creating an environment for ongoing scarring. The retina can detach and create significant vision loss.
This condition is most commonly observed in people with severe diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina.
Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.