What is vitreous detachment?
The vitreous is a semi-solid to liquid material that occupies up to 75 per cent of the eye’s volume. It is contained within a thin sac that is tightly adhered to the retina (the inner layer of the eye). One role of the vitreous is to keep the eyeball inflated much like air in a soccer ball. As we age, this shrinks and pulls away from the retina, causing a vitreous detachment.
What are the causes/symptoms of vitreous detachment?
Over time, the fibers of the vitreous become more mobile and clump together, forming floaters. The floaters cast a shadow on the retina, which may appear like a dust particle or a tiny insect floating in your vision. The vitreous may then pull away from the retina resulting in the sudden onset of flashing lights accompanying the floaters. These symptoms of vitreous detachment are similar to retinal detachment. However, a vitreous detachment does not have the same potential of vision damage that retinal detachment does. Vitreous detachment may occur spontaneously or after eye surgery, trauma to the eye or head, or due to an inflammatory process.
When could vitreous detachment lead to potential vision loss?
If the vitreous pulls away from the retina with excessive force, a retinal hole or tear may result. This has the potential to progress to a retinal detachment, which can result in significant vision loss. Seeing your optometrist can help with the detection of vitreous detachment and any small asymptomatic retinal holes, tears and detachments that could progress before you are even aware of them.
What is the treatment for vitreous detachment?
Even though the appearance of flashes and floaters from a vitreous detachment can be more of a nuisance than anything, you should have your eyes examined by an optometrist right away if you notice any sudden changes in vision, such as new floater or flashes of light. You will need to have your pupils dilated to check the health of the retina. A cautious approach can go a long way towards preserving vision.