Feature Article

Retinal detachment: what the GP should look for

John A Downie



Retinal detachment is one of the better known ophthalmic problems. It is a reasonably common, and treatable, cause of visual loss. The diagnosis must be considered by GPs when patients present with the sudden onset of flashes, floaters and visual loss.

Key Points

  • Retinal detachment develops after the formation of a retinal break (tear), which allows fluid from the vitreous cavity to enter the subretinal space and the retina to detach from its normal position.
  • Posterior vitreous detachment causes most retinal tears.
  • The sudden onset of flashes, floaters, and peripheral visual field loss that progresses to loss of central vision requires same-day referral to an ophthalmologist.
  • Treatment of retinal detachment requires surgery, which has a high rate of success.