Rhegmatogenous Retinal Detachment (RRD) Clinical Presentation

Updated: Mar 14, 2023
  • Author: Lihteh Wu, MD; Chief Editor: Andrew A Dahl, MD, FACS  more...
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Specifically ask patients about the following risk factors that predispose to premature PVD:

  • Myopia

  • Prior intraocular surgery

  • Family history

  • RRD in the fellow eye


Photopsias refer to the perception of flashing lights by the patient. It probably arises from the mechanical stimulation of vitreoretinal traction on the retina. It may be induced by eye movements and appears to be more noticeable in dim illumination.

Visual field defect

Patients often describe a black curtain (visual field defect) once the subretinal fluid extends posterior to the equator.


Floaters are opacities in the vitreous that cast variously sized and shaped dark shadows in the patient's visual field as they float in the vitreous cavity.

A ring-shaped floater is the Weiss ring or the remnant of the posterior hyaloid attachment to the edges of the optic disc.

Cobwebs are caused by condensation of the collagen fibers.

Small spots usually indicate fresh blood due to the rupture of a retinal vessel during an acute PVD.

Loss of central vision

When the macula becomes detached (ie, extension of subretinal fluid into the macula), the patient experiences a drop in visual acuity.

In other cases, a large bullous detachment may overhang and obstruct light from reaching the macula, causing decreased visual acuity even though the macula is not detached.



Cell and flare may be seen in the anterior chamber of eyes with a rhegmatogenous retinal detachment (RRD).

The intraocular pressure usually is lower in the eye with a RRD than in the fellow eye; this usually is reversed by retinal reattachment. In certain cases, the intraocular pressure may be higher than in the fellow eye.

Pigment in the anterior vitreous (tobacco dusting or a Shaffer sign) often is present.

Once the retina becomes detached, it assumes a slightly opaque color secondary to intraretinal edema. It has a convex configuration, has a corrugated appearance, and undulates freely with eye movements unless severe proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) is present.

A retinal break in the shape of a horseshoe or flap often is present. Of all RRDs, 50% have more than 1 break. Of all breaks, 60% are located in the upper temporal quadrant, and 15% are located in the upper nasal quadrant. Another 15% are in the lower temporal quadrant, and 10% are in the lower nasal quadrant.

Chronic RRD may present with retinal thinning, intraretinal cysts, subretinal fibrosis, proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), fixed folds, and demarcation lines. These lines usually are at the junction of attached and detached retina. Even though they represent areas of increased retinal adhesion to the RPE, it is not uncommon for subretinal fluid to spread beyond the lines.

Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment is shown in the images below.

Clinical picture of a rhegmatogenous retinal detac Clinical picture of a rhegmatogenous retinal detachment involving the macula. Notice the folds just temporal to the fovea.
Clinical picture of a rhegmatogenous retinal detac Clinical picture of a rhegmatogenous retinal detachment. Notice that the macula is involved and that the retina is corrugated and has a slightly opaque color.


The main cause of a rhegmatogenous retinal detachment (RRD) is a PVD that leads to retinal tear formation. The following are risk factors that commonly share the premature liquefaction of the vitreous gel leading to an increased rate of PVD.

Abnormal vitreoretinal adhesions are present in many eyes with RRD. Lattice degeneration of the retina is a common condition characterized by both retinal thinning and abnormal vitreoretinal adhesions, increasing the risk for 1 or more retinal tears.

Prior intraocular surgery, especially cataract extraction: It appears that an intact posterior capsule delays the onset of PVD. Other procedures, such as penetrating keratoplasty and pars plana vitrectomy (PPV), also may be complicated by a RRD.

Certain familial conditions, such as Stickler syndrome, Marfan syndrome, homocystinuria, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, are associated with RRD.

Inflammatory or infectious conditions, such as acute retinal necrosis syndrome, CMV retinitis in AIDS patients, ocular toxoplasmosis, pars planitis, and axial myopia may be noted.