Diseases of the Retina / Vitreous: Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD)
What is a Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD)?
The back of the eye is made up of the retina and vitreous. The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye wall.
The vitreous is the gel-like substance that allows the eye to maintain its shape while allowing light to enter the retina.
Inside the vitreous are millions of thin fibers that interlock and connect to the retina. During the aging process, the vitreous begins to shrink, causing the thin fibers to pull on the surface of the retina. When those fibers are pulled too tight, they break, allowing for the vitreous to detach from the retina.
A vitreous detachment commonly occurs in people over the age of 50. It is most common in people over the age of 80. It also more often affects people
who are nearsighted. People who have experienced a vitreous detachment in one eye are likely to experience it in the other eye at some point.
Because the thin fibers inside the vitreous are pulled tight when the vitreous shrinks, the fibers can cause a shadow on the retina causing a patient to complain of seeing “floaters”, “cobwebs”, or “specks” in their field of vision. The floaters, cobwebs, or specks appear to move out of the way when you try to focus on them.
During a vitreous detachment, there will be a small but sudden increase in the number of new floaters. These new floaters may also be accompanied with
flashes of light in the peripheral, or side, vision.
Pain is not associated with a vitreous detachment. The main symptoms will mainly include the nuisance of increased floaters and flashes of light.
A vitreous detachment, by itself, does not threaten sight. However, on occasion, the fibers within the vitreous can pull so hard on the retina that it can cause a retinal tear which can lead to a retinal detachment. Both of these conditions are sight-threatening and should be treated immediately.
During the first few weeks after an acute PVD, you are at increased risk of developing a retinal tear. Close observation will be performed by your doctor. If you experience signs or symptoms of a retinal tear such as a sudden onset of floaters, flashes or a cloud, veil or curtain in your vision, seek urgent evaluation from your retinal specialist.
Early detection and treatment, when indicated, is the best way to prevent vision loss. Regular yearly examinations by your eye doctor are extremely important because eye problems can develop at any age. An urgent evaluation is warranted if you have significant increase in light flashes, floaters,
or a cloud, veil or curtain in your vision.