Posterior Vitreous Detachment
A posterior vitreous detachment is a separation of the vitreous gel from the surface of the retina. At birth the vitreous has the consistency of jello and is firmly adherent to the retina. Later in life the vitreous begins to liquify and partially separate from the retina. At this point patients may experience small floaters. As the vitreous shrinks and separates more completely from the retina, larger floaters may be seen. If the vitreous remains adherent to the retina, the patient may experience a light flash. Posterior vitreous detachment is a natural process that occurs with aging. This process usually occurs gradually, but may happen precipitously, resulting in the sudden onset of floaters and light flashes. This is called an acute posterior vitreous detachment.
Posterior vitreous detachment is more likely to occur in people who are nearsighted, and following cataract surgery. Posterior vitreous detachment can result in a retinal tear or a retinal detachment. Patients with symptoms of posterior vitreous detachment should be seen by their optometrist or ophthalmologist and referred to a retinal specialist if necessary. The light flashes typically subside after a posterior vitreous detachment over a period of weeks or months. Small floaters my persist indefinitely. Posterior vitreous detachment requires no treatment. It is not uncommon for the fellow eye to experience a posterior vitreous detachment shortly after the first eye. If large floaters remain and are bothersome, a vitrectomy may be done to remove them.