Photo with light flecks, flashes and random bright spots and lines simulating the vision of somebody with a vitreous detachment condition

What is posterior vitreous detachment?

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is a common eye condition resulting from natural changes to the vitreous, a jelly-like substance inside the eye. Made from collagen and water, the vitreous jelly loses its shape and consistency as we age, causing the vitreous jelly to detach from the retina and move towards the centre of the eye.

Symptoms of PVD

The onset of PVD can be sudden presenting symptoms that are more frustrating than troublesome or of major concern. On its own, PVD does not result in permanent loss of vision or pain, nor does it harm the eye. Common symptoms can vary, but include the following:

Flashes

As the vitreous starts to detach it can tug or pull slightly on the retina. Retina is a light sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye, analogous to film of a camera. Once disturbed, the retina’s natural reaction is to send a short electrical signal to the brain, which we see as a flash of light in our peripheral vision. By the time the vitreous is completely detached, flashes will settle down and in most instances disappear.

Floaters

Another commonly reported symptom is the presence of floaters or cobwebs. Changes in the shape and size of the vitreous jelly can result in small clumps of cells or stringy strands becoming more prevalent. Casting a shadow on the retina, specks, dots and sometimes even lines float around in your field of vision often darting from one side to the other as you attempt to ‘look’ at them.

The biggest concern of posterior vitreous detachment is the heightened risk of developing a retinal tear that can lead to retinal detachment. The symptoms of PVD are similar to those of the more serious condition of retinal detachment, therefore it is very important to seek a professional diagnosis if you experience a sudden onset of floaters or flashes. Early detection to rule out a more serious eye condition is highly recommended.

Who is at risk?

Despite being a common and naturally occurring condition, posterior vitreous detachment is more prevalent in those over the age of 50. Myopic patients, those who are short sighted, are at an increased risk of developing PVD and may experience it earlier in life. An accidental injury or significant knock to the eye may also result in PVD symptoms presenting themselves regardless of your age.

How is posterior vitreous detachment treated?

The good news is that there is no medical treatment necessary to deal with the presence of PVD. Because it is not a disease or chronic eye health problem, symptoms usually dissipate over time on their own. Regular visits to an ophthalmologist or your optometrist are highly recommended to ensure that the condition does not develop into something more serious.

If you have any concerns about your vision or the recent onset of flashes or floaters, call 07 3715 5555 to discuss your situation with our West Brisbane Ophthalmologist.