A posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is a very common and normal event. It occurs when the vitreous gel, the watery jelly which fills the eye, separates from the retina. The retina is the light sensitive tissue which lines the inside of the eye.
A PVD is a very common cause of flashes and floaters. New flashes and floaters should be examined by your eye doctor to check for a retinal tear.
The chance of a PVD occurring increases as we age and will eventually occur in everyone.
What is the Vitreous?
The vitreous is very similar to jellyfish being composed mainly of water. Just like the jellyfish, the vitreous contains a small amount of protein which gives the vitreous the gel-like qualities.
When we are born, the vitreous is very homogeneous, like a block of cheese. As we age, pockets of water can form within the vitreous, just as air pockets form in Swiss cheese. At some point, the vitreous collapses these water pockets and the vitreous pulls away from the surface of the retina.
The vitreous is never regenerated. It is very important in the embryologic development of the eye, but really has no useful function once we are born.
Symptoms of PVD
The most common symptoms of a posterior vitreous detachment are flashes and floaters. Flashes are lightning quick sparks of light and floaters are anything which moves back and forth in your vision, regardless of shape, color or size.
Once the vitreous collapses, it no longer fills the entire eye and has more room to float back and forth. Portions of the vitreous never separate from the surface of the retina. These adherent areas act as tethers. As the vitreous shifts in the eye, it can gently tug on the retina causing flashes. If it too hard, a retinal tear can develop.
Floaters are caused by some of the degenerated proteins within the vitreous – no longer optically clear and can cast shadows on the retina. Bleeding can occur from a PVD or retinal tear to cause floaters as well.
PVD Causes Retinal Tear
A posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is the most common cause of a retinal tear. Retinal tears can form a retinal detachment which is potentially blinding.
New onset flashes and/or floaters should be examined by your eye doctor, looking for a retinal tear. There is no other way to check for a retinal tear.
The chance of a retinal tear is highest during the initial six weeks of the onset of a PVD. New flashes and/or new floaters should be reported to your doctor, especially during this period.
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