Skip to content

Eye Health Center

Font Size

Posterior Vitreous Detachment - Topic Overview

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) happens as a normal part of aging. The vitreous gel shrinks and separates from the retina. PVD normally happens over a period of time, and it's something that you won't feel.

It happens because the vitreous gel in the middle of your eye begins to change by the time you are 40 or 50. The gel's normal structure breaks down in a process called syneresis. Parts of the gel shrink and lose fluid. The fluid collects in pockets in the middle of the eye, and thick strands of the gel form and drift through the eye. These strands appear as floaters.

Recommended Related to Eye Health

Detecting Eye Diseases and Conditions

As our population ages, vision loss from eye diseases is increasing.  According to the National Eye Institute (NEI): About 3.3 million Americans aged 40 or older are blind or have low vision. This is about 1 in every 28 people. By 2020, that number could be 5.5 million -- a 60% increase. NEI has identified the most common eye diseases in people over age 40 as: Age-related macular degeneration Cataracts Diabetic eye disease Glaucoma To catch eye conditions early and help...

Read the Detecting Eye Diseases and Conditions article > >

This kind of PVD usually does not cause any problems. But if the vitreous gel is strongly attached to the retina, the gel can pull so hard on the retina—a process called traction—that it tears the retina. The tear then allows fluid to collect under the retina and may lead to a retinal detachment.

In addition to normal, age-related changes in the vitreous gel, PVD can also result from eye injury or inflammation or can happen after eye surgery. This kind of PVD may occur suddenly and may also cause a retinal tear.

The main symptoms of PVD are floaters and flashes of light. Having floaters or flashes does not always mean that you are about to have a retinal detachment, but it is important to tell your doctor about these symptoms right away. A sudden change in these symptoms could be a warning sign of a retinal tear or detachment.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: July 15, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Posterior Vitreous Detachment Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Woman holding tissue to reddened eye
    Learn about causes, symptoms, and treatments.
    eye
    Simple annoyance or the sign of a problem?
     
    red eyes
    Symptoms, triggers, and treatments.
    blue eye with contact lens
    Tips for wearing and caring.
     
    Understanding Stye
    Article
    human eye
    Article
     
    eye
    Video
    eye exam timing
    Video
     
    vision test
    Tool
    is vision correction surgery for you
    Article
     
    high tech contacts
    Article
    eye drop
    Article
     

    Special Sections