Posterior Vitreous Detachment

What is the Vitreous?

The vitreous is a clear jelly-like substance within the eye which takes up the space behind the lens and in front of the retina, the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye.

What is Posterior Vitreous Detachment?

Posterior Vitreous Detachment or PVD for short is a common condition that occurs in the middle age. As people get older the vitreous, a jelly-like substance inside the eye changes. When a PVD starts the jelly comes away from the retina. As it comes away from the retina, it can cause the symptoms of PVD.

What are the Symptoms of PVD?

Many people are not aware that they have developed PVD but others develop symptoms such as floaters or flashing lights. Floaters can take many forms from little dots, circles, lines, to clouds or cobwebs.

The flashing lights occur as the outer part of the vitreous pulls on the retina as it comes away from it. This stimulation causes the sensation of flashing lights since the brain interprets all stimulation signals from the retina as light.

Can anything be done to help with the PVD?

No treatment is needed for PVD. The symptoms usually calm down over weeks and people get used to living with the floaters. The brain adapts to the floaters and eventually is able to ignore them, so they are only occasionally noticeable in specific conditions such as in very bright light.

Will I lose any sight?

Posterior vitreous detachment does not itself cause any loss of vision. Your visual acuity should remain the same that is you will be able to see just as you could before the posterior vitreous detachment started. You may have some difficulties to begin with because of the floaters and flashing lights.

The only threat to vision is a small chance of a retinal tear leading to a retinal detachment. It is important to stress that retinal tears and detachments are much rarer conditions and that very few people with PVD go on to develop either of these problems.

Are retinal tears serious?

Sometimes the as the jelly collapses it pulls quite strongly on the retina. Occasionally this may lead to the retina tearing which may lead to a loss of vision because of a retinal detachment.

Warning signs of a retinal tear or detachment are:

An increase in size and number of your floaters
A change/increase in the flashing lights you experience
Blurring of vision
A 'curtain' falling across your vision

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact us for advice urgently.

Early intervention often allows treatment of a tear before it becomes a detachment and also increases the chances of a good recovery from a retinal detachment which may have already occurred.

Will I need to keep seeing my Doctor?

You will have had a thorough examination during your first visit with special attention to whether or not the retina is in any danger. If it isn't then you may not need to see your ophthalmologist again. However if you begin to experience the symptoms warning of a possible retinal detachment, highlighted above, then you should seek urgent medical attention again.

Is there anything I can do to cope with these annoying symptoms?

Floaters can be particularly annoying. They get in the way of seeing things and can make some things difficult, for example reading a book. There is a way of trying to cope with this that some people find useful. If you move your eyes around you can sometimes move the floater out of your direct field of vision. This works best if you have one large floater rather than lots of small ones. Making things bigger can also help while you have floaters so that you are able to see things ‘around’ the floaters. Most people find that with time the floaters become less and less of a problem.

If you would like to read more about this condition, further information is available on the following websites:
From the national Institute of health (NIH) USA: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/flashesandfloaters/ot089103.pdf
The American Academy of Ophthalmology: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/floaters-flashes/index.cfm

As one of the top retinal specialists in the country, Dr Somdutt Prasad treats patients suffering from PVD at i4vision, a modern eye care clinic in Kolkata.