Posterior Vitreous Detachment
The vitreous or vitreous humour is a gelatinous and transparent substance that fills the space in the eye between the surface of the retina and the crystalline lens. The detachment of the posterior vitreous is a degenerative process in which the vitreous comes away from the retina to which it’s normally attached. It’s a very common occurrence that could be considered almost physiological with age. However, it’s much more frequent and appears earlier in short-sighted people.
As the vitreous becomes detached it condenses and is no longer transparent. When this happens, the patient will notice the sudden appearance of a “dark mark” in different forms (a spider’s web, hair, fluff, thread, mosquito shape or dots) that appears to float in vision. These vitreous floaters don’t disappear when looking in another direction since they are in the interior of the eye. They are also more intense when positioned near the visual centre or on a clear background such as blue sky or a white wall.
Vitreous detachment is not a disease and should not be confused with the detachment of the retina. However, as the vitreous becomes detached it can pull at the retina and break it causing a tear in the retina although this only occurs in a small percentage of cases. When the vitreous pulls at the retina, the patient may perceive “flashes of light” coming from the interior of the eye. Patients should not be alarmed but if they do see floating “dark marks” or these “flashes of light”, they should see an ophthalmologist urgently to check for a possible tear in the retina resulting from the vitreous detachment.
How is posterior vitreous detachment treated?
As mentioned previously, posterior vitreous detachment isn’t a disease and doesn’t require any treatment, although an ophthalmological examination is necessary to check for any complications.
There is currently no effective treatment for making the vitreous floaters disappear, but they do generally reduce in size over time.