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Can Dry Eyes Cause Retinal Detachment?

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A man sitting at a table using a laptop and rubbing his eye while holding his glasses in his other hand.

Dry eye disease and retinal detachment can both be uncomfortable and cause blurry vision, but apart from this, their symptoms are distinct. Both are possible side effects of aging that you should be aware of, so it’s important to understand their differences. But can dry eye disease actually lead to a retinal detachment? The answer is no; while the 2 conditions have similarities, one will not cause the other.

Understanding the Differences

If you’re experiencing blurry vision, floaters, or flashes of light in your line of sight, you may be concerned about the possibility of retinal detachment.

Worrying about a condition that can cause permanent vision loss is natural. But it’s important to understand the difference between dry eye disease and retinal detachment to get the right diagnosis and treatment for your condition. 

What Is Dry Eye Disease? 

Dry eye disease is a chronic condition caused by reduced tear production or increased tear evaporation due to aging, certain medications, or environmental factors like smoke or wind.

Dry eye can cause various symptoms, including stinging or burning eyes, blurred vision, a scratchy feeling like something is in your eye, strings of mucus in or around your eyes, red or irritated eyes, and pain when wearing contact lenses.

For mild dry eyes, treatment typically includes supplemental tear drops that can be used as needed to help soothe the eyes and prevent further irritation. Dietary supplements containing omega-3, like flaxseed oil, may also be beneficial in relieving symptoms of dry eye. Additionally, activities and environments that increase the evaporation of tears should be avoided, such as running ceiling fans, riding motorcycles, and other wind-driven activities.

A man sitting in an ophthalmologist's office looking into a machine that tests his vision.

What Is Retinal Detachment? 

Retinal detachment occurs when the retina, a thin layer of light-sensitive cells that line the inner surface of the eye, detaches from its normal position.

Symptoms may include noticing the sudden onset of floaters (clumps of the vitreous gel in the eye that look like spots in the vision), flashing lights, or loss of peripheral vision (compared to a curtain covering a portion of their vision). It’s also possible, but very rare, for retinal detachment to occur without symptoms, only being discovered upon a routine dilated retinal exam.

There are 3 types of retinal detachments

  • Rhegmatogenous retinal detachments are the most common type and occur gradually over time via holes, tears, or breaks in the retina. 
  • Tractional detachments happen when scar tissue or other tissue grows on the retina, pulling the retina away from its underlying layer. 
  • Exudative (serous) retinal detachments are less common and occur when fluid collects under the retina without tears present; they can affect both eyes.

Treatment for retinal detachment depends on the type and underlying cause of the detachment. Early intervention is key to achieving the best possible outcomes, so it is important to seek care from an eye care provider immediately if symptoms appear. 

Can Dry Eyes Cause Retinal Detachment?

Dry eyes cannot cause retinal detachment. While they can both be age-related and cause some disruption to your vision, they are 2 separate conditions requiring different treatment plans.

If you experience any of these symptoms, see an eye care professional for a proper diagnosis and to create an appropriate treatment plan for your condition.

Get the Care You Need with Eye Care Plus

Dry eye disease and retinal detachment have important differences to be aware of. However, if you suffer from concerning symptoms, come into Eye Care Plus and get your eyes checked as soon as possible.

With our drive-thru window and eyeSPA services, our team can provide quick and convenient care so you’re not stuck waiting for hours in an office. Whether it’s floaters, flashes, blurry vision, or something else that is causing you issues, Eye Care Plus is here to help.

About the Author

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Dr. Jaya M. Pathapati grew up in the Bronx and Yonkers, NY. She got her Bachelor of Science in Biology and was awarded the highest distinction in Biology at the College of Mt. St. Vincent. She received her Doctor of Optometry from the State University of NY, College of Optometry. She rotated through externships that were hospital-based and through Veteran’s Affair in NY. Following graduation, she moved to Amarillo, Texas, with her husband. She has practiced in the Panhandle for the past 21 years.
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