Most of the eye is filled with a clear gelatinous substance called "vitreous." The vitreous is essential during the development of the eye before we are born. There are millions of fine fibers within the vitreous that are attached to the surface of the retina. As we age, the vitreous slowly condenses, and these fine fibers tug on the retinal surface. Usually the fibers break, allowing the gel to separate and shrink from the retina. This is a vitreous detachment. In most cases, a vitreous detachment is not sight-threatening and requires no treatment.
Vitreous detachment is common in people over age 50, and may occur earlier in people who are nearsighted. Those who have a vitreous detachment in one eye are likely to have one in the other, although it may not happen until years later.
What are the symptoms of a posterior vitreous detachment?
You may notice shadows that look like "cobwebs" or floaters which move around in your field of vision. You may also experience flashes of light in your side vision.
Is a posterior vitreous detachment serious?
Although a vitreous detachment does not threaten sight, once in a while some of the vitreous fibers pull so hard on the retina that they create a retinal tear or a retinal detachment. Both of these conditions are sight-threatening and should be treated immediately, to minimize permanent vision loss. Because the symptoms of a posterior vitreous detachment and a retinal tear or detachment are similar, it is important to take these symptoms very seriously. The only way to diagnose the cause of the problem is by a dilated eye examination, which should occur as soon as possible. If a retinal tear or detachment is present, early treatment can help prevent loss of vision.
Can Eye Health Vision Center help me?
If you have new floaters or flashes in your vision, or if you see a curtain or veil covering your vision, you should call our office immediately to schedule an appointment as your symptoms may indicate a more serious condition. We will perform a dilated eye exam to confirm the diagnosis of a posterior vitreous detachment and rule out more serious conditions such as a retinal tear or retinal detachment.