What Are the Types of Retinal Detachment?

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on April 11, 2023
2 min read

In this serious condition, your retina -- a thin layer of nerve tissue in the back of your eye -- pulls away from its normal spot.

There are three different types of retinal detachment:

Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment is the most common type. It happens slowly over time. With it, you get a hole, tear, or break in the retina. That lets the vitreous gel -- the fluid from the middle of your eye -- leak under the retina. When the liquid settles, the retina pulls away from the layer beneath it like the way water separates off wallpaper. That's the part that nourishes it and keeps it healthy.

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is a common cause of retinal tears. It’s a normal part of aging that causes the vitreous gel to pull away from the retina in places. It's usually harmless and often has no symptoms. But sometimes, the gel builds up so much and pulls so hard that it tears the retina.

Most people with retinal tears don't end up with a detachment. But if you notice new symptoms like floaters, spots, or flashes of light, it could be happening. You might also have weak vision or see what looks like a curtain or shadow coming from one corner of your eye. Consider that an emergency and go to a retina specialtyophthalmologist right away.

A torn retina could be more likely to lead to a detachment if you are nearsighted or you recently had cataract or other eye surgery.

Tractional retinal detachment happens when scar tissue or other tissue grows on your retina and pulls it away from the layer underneath. It can lead to serious vision loss.

This type is often found in people with diabetes who have severe diabetic retinopathy, or damage to blood vessels in the retina.

Exudative (serous) retinal detachment is rare. It happens when fluid collects under your retina, but there's no tear. It can affect both eyes.

This type of detachment is often comes from an eye injury or as a complication of a wide range of diseases. They include various inflammatory and kidney diseases, as well as Lyme disease, eye tumors, and severe high blood pressure.