What Is Vitreous?
Vitreous is a clear gel-like substance that fills most of the eye’s interior and helps the eye maintain a round shape. In the vitreous, there are millions of intertwined fine fibers (collagen and other proteins) that are attached to the retina, the thin sensitive tissue that lines the back wall of the eye.
What Is Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD)?
As a normal aging change, the vitreous gel sometimes separates from the back of the eye (“posterior vitreous detachment”). The older you are, the more likely you will get a PVD.
People who have a PVD in one eye are likely to develop one in the other, typically within a year but it may not happen until years later.
Signs & Symptoms of PVD
Posterior vitreous detachment can cause sudden onset of floaters. Some patients report flashing lights for 1-2 days prior to the development of floaters.
Is PVD Dangerous?
Posterior vitreous detachment can occasionally cause a retinal tear, which may lead to retinal detachment. The retinal tear can often be repaired by eye laser surgery in the office if caught early.
If vitreous pulls so hard on the center of the retina (called “macula”), it can lead to a macular hole formation, which is a sight-threatening condition that needs urgent surgery.
In other cases, PVD can cause bleeding in the back of the eye (vitreous hemorrhage). When vitreous pulls away from the retina, it can cause retinal blood vessels to ooze a small amount of blood. The patient may notice hundreds of small floaters in their field of vision.
Examination for PVD
We recommend that anyone with new floaters or flashes of light be seen by a retina specialist right away for a thorough evaluation of the retina.
Treatment for Retinal Tears
If the PVD causes the retina to tear (“retinal tear”), the retina specialist can usually treat it with a special retinal laser in the office to prevent retinal detachment. If the patient does not seek medical attention immediately, they may need a major retina surgery in the operating room.
Shahem Kawji, MD
Newport Beach, CA 92660