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Retinal Detachment

What is retinal detachment?
There is a kind of thin skin on the inside of the back of the eye that is called the retina.  The retina holds all of the nerves that get visual messages and send them to the brain through the optic nerve.  If the skin peels away from the back of the eye, it is called retinal detachment.  If the retina stays detached, there is no way for visual messages to get to the brain.  The people who have retinal detachment are blind.

What causes retinal detachment?
There are a few things that can cause retinal detachment. 

People who have retinopathy of prematurity sometimes have retinal detachment.   The blood vessels may grow wild after an early birth.  They pull the retina away from the back of the eye.  You can read about retinopathy of prematurity on this website.  

People who have Marfan’s disease, Stickler’s syndrome or high myopia have eyes that are very long.  If the retina is not long as well, it may come off of the back of the long eye.  You can read about Marfan’s, Stickler’s and myopia on this website.

Sometimes there is an injury to the eye or the head that makes the retina come off of the back of the eye.  A few people have retinal detachment after having cataracts taken out by the doctor.   Most people do not have problems when cataracts are taken out.  You can read more about cataracts on this website.

What kind of vision do people have who have detached retinas?
If the retina is all the way off of the back of the eye, people have no vision.  If the retina is only partly off, they may have a little bit of vision.  Sometimes people who have partly detached retinas say they see flashes of light.  Sometimes they say that everything looks blurry.

What will help you if you have detached retinas?

  1. Sometimes the doctors can put the retina back onto the back of the eye.  This has to be done quickly.  If you have just started seeing flashes of light and having blurry vision, and you have retinopathy of prematurity, Marfan’s disease, high myopia or Stickler’s syndrome, call the doctor right away or call 911.
  2. If you have no vision, you may want to learn braille and use listening to learn. 
  3. If you still have vision, you may want to make things bigger.  The easy way to make things look bigger is to move them close to you or move yourself close to them.  Use a bookstand to hold your book so that you can sit up to look at it up close.  Maybe a magnifier will help you see things close to you.  You can make print and pictures bigger on the computer, with a CCTV or with a copy machine.   Using a monocular telescope may help for looking at things far away.
  4. If you want to have a wider view of things, you can use a monocular telescope to do that. Hold the telescope backwards.  Things will look small, but more will fit into the view.  It is best to use a telescope that is made to make things look two to four times bigger for this.
  5. Let people know where to put things so that you can see them.  They may not know that you are missing part of your vision.
  6. You may want to use a white cane when you walk around.  The cane can help you find things.  It will keep you from bumping into things.  It will help you not trip.
  7. Be careful not to bump your head.  Stay away from flying balls.  Wear a hat with a stiff brim to warn you if something is near your head.  Wear a helmet if you are riding a bike, a skate board or a scooter or if you are rollerblading, skiing or ice skating.  Any time when you might fall and hit your head, where a helmet.

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