Posterior Vitreous Detachment (Flashes and Floaters)

The middle of the eye is filled with a substance called vitreous. The vitreous is normally attached to the retina, in the back of the eye. A posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is when the vitreous pulls away from the retina.

As we age, the vitreous changes. It becomes less solid and more liquid-like. It shrinks and pulls away from the back of the eye. The vitreous is attached to the retina by millions of microscopic fibers. When enough of these fibers break, the vitreous separates completely from the retina, causing a PVD.

Most people with a PVD will not notice any symptoms. Some with PVD will have the following symptoms:

  • Flashes of light in peripheral or side vision
  • Floaters, or tiny specks, moving around in your field of vision
  • O rarely, decreased vision or a dark curtain or shadow moving across your field of vision

These are some risk factors that may cause a PVD to happen earlier:

  • Nearsightedness
  • Cataract or other eye surgeries
  • Diabetes
  • Trauma (injury) to the eye

For most people, a PVD is a benign (harmless) event with no symptoms and no vision loss. Others may notice a lot of floaters. Floaters can be bothersome but usually become less noticeable over time.

For a small amount of people having a PVD, problems occur when the vitreous detaches from the retina. The vitreous pulls too hard from the back of the eye and takes a piece of the underlying tissue (the retina) with it. This is called a retinal tear. It can lead to a retinal detachment, which can cause permanent loss of vision.

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