Living with a detached retina (retinal detachment)

There are around 10-15 cases of retinal detachment per 100,00 people in the UK each year (Source: NICE). 

Living with the effects of retinal detachment can be daunting at first. Treatment is available, but its success can depend on how quickly it happens – and how much damage has already occurred. 

However, most people live independently with a good level of vision following retinal detachment surgery.

On this page

If you would prefer to watch the video without an audio description, there is a non-described version here rather than the accessible one above.

Recovering from retinal detachment surgery

Your ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will review the outcome of the operation on your sight after around six to eight weeks. Some people may need further surgery.

Learn more about recovering from detached retina surgery.

Retinal detachment and driving

If your retinal detachment affects your sight, you shouldn't drive until an optician has checked your eyes. 

After surgery, your eyesight will need to be checked by an eye doctor to ensure it meets the DVLA's minimum standard for driving.

For many people, surgery can successfully restore their sight enough to allow them to drive.

However, it could be up to eight weeks after the procedure until your eyes have fully recovered. 

You need to tell the DVLA if:

  • You've had treatment in both eyes.
  • Treatment in one eye might have affected your sight for driving (check with your optician).
  • You drive a bus, coach or lorry, even if you've had surgery on only one eye.

Retinal detachment and work

Retinal detachment is a medical emergency, so you'll probably need time off work at short notice to have treatment.

It can take anywhere between two to eight weeks to recover from surgery. When you go back to work will depend on whether:

  • You drive to and from work.
  • You drive as part of your job.
  • Your job involves strenuous activities.

If your sight has been permanently affected by retinal detachment, talk to your employer about the impact it's had and what useful vision you do have. They're responsible for making reasonable adjustments to help you manage at work.

Life after retinal detachment

Many people recover from treatment with a good level of vision. This is more likely the sooner a detached retina is treated. It also depends on how much of the retina was affected and whether the macula was involved.

If retinal detachment has caused a permanent change to your sight, it's natural to worry about what this will mean for you. It can help to hear stories from other people who've had a detached retina. They'll be able to share their tips and reassure you that you'll still be able to do the things you enjoy in everyday life with some adjustments.

Practical tips for coping with retinal detachment sight loss

The practical support you need can vary depending on how good the vision is in your other eye and whether your peripheral vision (side vision), central vision or both have been affected.

Our guide to making the most of your vision is a good place to start, and you can ask your ophthalmologist about a low vision assessment. Some simple tips include:

Depending on your overall level of vision, you may be able to register as having sight loss; your eye doctor will be able to help. Being registered as vision impaired can help you get support and benefits that make life a bit easier.

Our Guide Line can help you find support and services nearby and help you with support tailored to your individual needs. 

Frequently asked questions

Get in touch

You can contact us to find out about services and support tailored to your individual needs.

Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 28/07/2022

Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.

For more support...

Information to help you continue developing your independence and ways to enhance your day-to-day life skills.

Find out how technology can help you live independently with sight loss, from specialist assistive technology to apps and Apple accessibility features.

In this section
  • Living with a detached retina