In a healthy eye, the vitreous humor helps hold in place the retina, a thin membrane of light-sensitive membrane attached to the inside surface of the eye.

Cornea

Lens

Retina

Macula

Optic nerve

Vitreous humor

A detached retina can occur when the vitreous humor slumps, tearing or dislocating the retina. A sudden burst of “floaters” clouding the vision can be a warning sign that a tear is starting to develop in the retina. Spontaneous tears in the retina occur in 30 percent of people older than 50.

Detached retina

An early-stage retinal tear can be treated in an eye doctor's office with laser surgery that creates a weld around the edges of the tear and usually keeps the retina from detaching

Laser beam

Major detachment may require cryopexy. In that procedure, a probe creates a freezing point on the peeled retina, forming an instant scar that holds it in position.

Cryoprobe

A gas is injected into the eye to temporarily hold the retina in place while it heals. The patient must remain upright so that the gas bubble stays in place. Eventually, the gas is absorbed by the body, leaving a repaired retina in place.

Gas bubble

The Washington Post.
Published on May 20, 2013, 7:13 p.m.