Posterior vitreous detachment is a common condition occurring in about 75% of people over the age of 65.
The vitreous is the jelly-like substance in the eye that takes up the space behind the lens and in front of the retina. It consists of 99% water. The vitreous is attached to the retina and in some places it is attached more strongly than in others. At the start of PVD, the jelly comes away from the retina.
As one ages, the central part of the vitreous becomes more liquid and the outer part (called the cortex) detaches from the retina. During this process, it can cause the symptoms of posterior vitreous detachment.
Symptoms of Posterior Vitreous Detachment
Among the early symptoms are floaters or flashing lights. Floaters can take the form of lines, circles, clouds, cobwebs and small dots. On occasion, a patient may experience a large floater that can be distracting and make reading difficult.
When the outer part of the vitreous detaches, the pull stimulates the retina and causes a sensation of flashing lights because the brain interprets signals from the retina as light.
How is PVD treated?
Currently there is no medical treatment for the condition. Usually the symptoms calm down after about six months and patients become used to the floaters.
PVD does not cause permanent loss of vision. Visual acuity should remain the same after the condition as before.
The only possible threat to vision is the unlikely chance of a retinal tear leading to a retinal detachment, but few people with PVD go on to develop either of these problems.
If you experience the symptoms of floaters or flashing lights it is important to consult an ophthalmologist, who will perform a comprehensive examination to determine whether or not the retina is in any danger. If it isn't, you may not need to go back, but if the floaters or flashing lights increase in severity, a visit to the ophthalmologist again will be necessary.