Glaucoma & Cataract, Prof. Eytan Blumenthal | Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD)

Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD)

In every eye, at a certain point in life, generally between the ages of 50-70 an event known as posterior vitreous detachment will occur. It is also called PVD, for short. This is a condition in which the gel that fills the eye detaches from its connections to the retina and essentially aggregates in the center of the eye.

This gel, which accompanies us throughout our lives, undergoes changes during the course of life and at around the ages of 50-70, at a certain point in time, it shrinks toward the center of the eye and as a result separates from the attachments that it had to the retina.

At this stage a person will likely notice changes including the appearance of floaters, perceived ‘flies’, and/or various lines in his/her visual field that were not there before. Sometimes the detachment is accompanied by flashes of light seen in the periphery of the visual field. All of these complaints together with the changes that occur in the eye are known as an acute episode of posterior vitreous detachment.

For the most part this phenomenon occurs without incident and does not constitute a problem or an illness. However, there is a slight increase in the appearance of holes or tears in the retina during the time in which the vitreous body detaches and these imperfections may rarely lead to retinal detachment. For this reason it is recommended that those people who experience the symptoms described above should see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible so that the doctor may confirm that the retina is intact and make sure that there are no holes or tears at the periphery of the retina.

It is important to note that an episode of posterior vitreous detachment is an expected and normal process in every eye at a certain age (one posterior vitreous detachment will occur in each eye at some point in every healthy individual’s life). Sometimes the event will occur without the person taking any notice at all, and at other times the person will experience the symptoms described above (floaters, lines, and dirt in the visual field and occasionally the appearance of flashing lights.

Flashing lights signify traction, pulling, on the retina, as occurs when the jelly of the eye is still attached to the retina in several places, and at the same time has condensed centrally and thus pulls on the retina in those locations where the jelly has not entirely separated from the retina. These flashes signify that a good retina examination needs to be performed to ascertain that the retina is intact, or alternatively, that holes, breaks or tears exist, for which treatment is initiated.

In summary, a PVD is an event that occurs once in every eye at some point during the course of a lifetime, usually between the ages of 50-70. This episode may be accompanied by floaters, ‘flies’ and/or other disturbances.

When these complaints appear it is prudent to seek out an ophthalmologist who will perform a thorough examination of the retina. In those eyes in which the symptoms are also accompanied by flashes of light, it is even more important to be checked by an ophthalmologist in order to rule out the existence of holes or tears in the retina. Should such holes or tears be found, they may require laser treatment to the retina, to minimize the chances of a retinal detachment, which is a consequence of untreated retinal holes, tears and breaks.

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