Eye Surgery, Honolulu, HI

Posterior Vitreous Detachment: What is it and is it Serious?

When discussing matters of the body, there are very few instances in which the word “detachment” may sound anything other than frightening. Retinal detachment is an example of an eye problem for which prompt medical attention is necessary. It is one your Mililani eye doctor is familiar with and able to treat if necessary. Another term that is common in ophthalmology is posterior vitreous detachment. Here, we discuss what this condition is and what it could mean for your eyes.

Spotting the Need for Help

We want to begin by saying that posterior vitreous detachment isn’t always serious. In fact, many people who experience this condition never need to be treated. The thing about it is that the symptoms of posterior vitreous detachment are nearly identical to the symptoms of retinal detachment. In either situation, it is the sudden onset of floaters (and possibly some flashes, too) that indicate the need for a prompt eye exam.

Floaters in Posterior Vitreous Detachment

The vitreous is a sometimes referred to as vitreous fluid. It is more like a gel-like matter that sits in the space between the front of the eyeball and the back. In both positions, front and back, the vitreous is attached to other structures by strands of collagen protein. At the back of the eye, these strands connect the vitreous to the retina.

As we age, the body doesn’t produce as much collagen as it once did. This means that the deterioration of aging collagen strands is not met with new, strong fibers. In the eyes, deteriorating collagen coincides with softening of the gelatinous vitreous. Instability between the fluid and collagen is compounded by the contraction of the vitreous. Due to the weakness of the collagen fibers, they typically break away and the vitreous separates from the retina and other posterior structures. The floaters that occur during this time are the shadows that are cast onto the retina by fraying collagen. This is a normal process that usually is not a cause for concern.

Concern arises when declining collagen strands don’t quite break free as the vitreous contracts. Instead, these strands pull on the retina, causing this vision-producing structure to separate from the back of the eye. If this happens, surgery may be needed to reattach it.

In most cases of posterior vitreous detachment, no complications occur. However, we advise any person who is experiencing a sudden onset or increase in floaters across their field of vision to schedule an eye exam. To contact us, call 808.625.5577.