Patient information: Posterior vitreous detachment
What is the vitreous? The vitreous is a clear gel that fills the cavity of the eye. It is 99% water and is not important for vision.
What is a posterior vitreous detachment? As
part of the normal aging process the vitreous may pull away from the
back of the eye (retina), and collapse into itself. This is more likely in
people who are shortsighted (myopic).
What are the symptoms of posterior vitreous detachment? Many
people do not know they have had a posterior vitreous detachment as it
does not damage the vision. Others become aware of floaters -
small spots or shapes that float in their vision. Floaters do not
cause any harm to the eye and they tend to become less noticable with
time. If the floaters are persistent and very troublesome it is
possible to remove them with surgery, but this is seldom required.
Can posterior vitreous detachment damage my eyes? No, however, posterior vitreous detachment is occasionally associated with retinal detachment.
Retinal detachment occurs when the vitreous is abnormally
adherent to the retina (the light-reactive lining in the back of the
eye). Hence when the vitreous detaches it pulls a tear in the
retina and this causes the retina to lift of the inside of the eye.
Retinal detachment is a serious condition that requires urgent
medical attention. The symptoms of retinal detachment
are flashing lights in the affected eye, bits missing from the vision
(blind spots), a curtain coming over the vision, or blurred vision.
If these symptoms occur you should see an eye doctor
What should I do if I have a posterior vitreous detachment? If
you are told you have posterior vitreous detachment, and this has
recently occured in association with a sudden onset of floaters or
flashing lights, then you should ask your optician or GP
to refer you
immediately to an eye doctor. In
some people a posterior vitreous detachment occurs without
symptoms and is picked up during a
routine optician eye examination. In this case it
is important that the optician puts in eyedrops to dilate the
carefully examines the retina. If the retina is normal you need
not see an eye doctor, but you should return to see your optician
once a year. If you develop the symptoms of retinal detachment (see
section above) then you should visit a hospital emergency service
immediately. If there are abnormal findings your
optician will refer you to an eye doctor.