What is the Vitreous

The vitreous is a clear, colourless fluid that fills the space between the lens and the retina of your eye. It is made up of 99% water and a mixture of collagen, proteins, salts and sugars. The vitreous has a firm jelly-like consistency and helps the eye holds its shape.  It is attached to several structures in the eye including the retina, the light-sensitive nerve tissue at the back of the eye.

Image above showing normal vitreous gel filling up the entire eyeball.

Posterior Vitreous Detachment

Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD) is the condition where the vitreous separates from the retina. It is usually a gradual process that takes place over a period of 1 to 3 months. PVD occurs because the vitreous liquefies and shrinks as we advance in age. Most people experience PVD after age 50, once in each eye.

Vitreous detachment

Image above showing detaching vitreous gel from the retinal wall.

Symptoms

PVD is usually non-sight threatening and may cause symptoms such as increase in floaters and flashes of light in your vision. Occasionally the vitreous may pull too hard and cause a tear in the retina or retinal blood vessels. Flashes and floaters will typically be more obvious in these cases.

Treatment

If a PVD occurs normally without any damage to the retina, no treatment is needed. The floaters and flashes that you experience will gradually settle with time.

If a retinal tear happens during PVD, laser retinopexy can be done to secure the retina around the tear by placing laser spots around it. Scar tissue will form and seal the tear, preventing the retina from detaching. Laser retinopexy is an easy, non-invasive procedure that can be done in minutes. It is usually painless and requires no downtime.

Laser retinopexy

Image showing laser retinopexy surrounding a retinal tear.

If the retinal tear is left untreated, fluid from inside the eye may enter the tear, causing the retina to lift off and detach. Retinal detachment is a sight-threatening medical emergency which may cause permanent loss of vision. Surgery, in the form of a vitrectomy, will usually be required within days to reattach the retina.

Vitreous may pull retinal wall

Image above showing how vitreous may pull on the retinal wall and cause a tear.

Fluid cause retinal detachement

Image above showing how fluid may seep in through the retinal tear to cause a retinal detachement.

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