What is a Posterior Vitreous Detachment?
The vitreous body is the jelly-like substance that fills the back portion of the eye behind the iris and lens. The vitreous is attached to the retina. As we age, the watery elements in the vitreous separate from the fibrous elements. This causes a contraction of the vitreous body and separation from the retina. This is called a posterior vitreous detachment.
What Causes Flashes of Light with Posterior Vitreous Detachment?
The separation and pulling on the retina from the vitreous causes flashes of light to occur which is common with a posterior detachment.
What Causes Floaters with a Posterior Vitreous Detachment?
Floaters from a posterior vitreous detachment can come from two sources. Reorganization of the fibrous elements can form pockets or cavities in the vitreous. These can fill with aprotein material. When the vitreous pulls loose from the retina, the attachments to the retina are brought into the vitreous.
Other Causes and Contributing Factors with Posterior Vitreous Detachment
People who are nearsighted have a higher incidence of posterior vitreous detachment. Injuries to the eye are a common cause of a posterior vitreous detachment. As we age the vitreous the vitreous changes leading to posterior vitreous detachment.
What Should Be Done When Symptoms of a Posterior Vitreous Detachment Occur?
All people with a recent onset of flashes and/or floaters should have a dilated eye exam. Most of the time nothing is found and close monitoring is all that is necessary. The flashes usually go away with time. The floaters will usually get better or go away with time as well.
Complications of a Posterior Vitreous Detachment
In a very small number of cases, there is a tear in the retina from the vitreous pulling on the retina. If left untreated, the retina tear can lead to retinal detachment. The retinal tear can be treated with a laser to seal the area around the tear in the doctor’s office. Sometimes cryotherapy (freezing) treatment may be necessary if the laser cannot be used to the seal the tear. If the retina detaches, it is a much more difficult procedure and the results less predictable.
When you first notice symptoms of a posterior vitreous detachment it is important that you have a dilated eye exam to check your retina as a retinal tear is much easier to treat than a retinal detachment.