Posterior Vitreous Separation

At Pacific Northwest Retina, we treat a wide variety of disorders involving the retina, macula and vitreous, including the condition Posterior Vitreous Separation.

What is Posterior Vitreous Separation?

The vitreous is a clear substance within the eye. It has a gel-like consistency. Vitreous gel is composed of 99% water by weight, and the other 1% is made up of special substances known as collagen and hyaluronic acid, which give the vitreous its gel-like consistency. The vitreous is a vestige of development, necessary to the growth of the hyaloidal artery during growth in utero. Once we are born, this blood vessel atrophies or dissolves as it is no longer needed to carry blood from the back of the eye to the front of the eye.

Normally, the back surface of the vitreous, called the hyaloid, is in direct contact with the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue that converts light into a chemical signal. However, as we age, the vitreous forms liquid pockets that cause surrounding vitreous to collapse centrally, providing space for the hyaloid to separate from its point of attachment at the back or posterior of the eye at the optic nerve.

This separation is called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). In the vast majority of patients, the process of separation has no symptoms and goes unrecognized. In a few people, however, this separation is noticeable immediately due to one or more of the following symptoms:

What are the symptoms?

One of the main symptoms of vitreous detachment is the presence of floaters. As the vitreous shrinks, it becomes stringy. These strands can cast tiny shadows on the retina. These shadows are floaters. Floaters can look like little “cobwebs” or specks that seem to float about in your field of vision. If you try to look at them, they seem to quickly dart out of the way.

People with vitreous detachment might have a small but sudden increase in the number of floaters. This increase can come with flashes of light in your peripheral vision. Most people with vitreous detachment will not notice any symptoms. Or, if they do, the symptoms are only annoying and do not interfere with their daily lives.

Schedule a Consultation

To learn more about Posterior Vitreous Separation and to schedule a visit with one of our retina specialists, call us toll-free at 800.331.3719 or 206.215.3850. We have locations in Seattle, Bellevue, Bellingham, Burlington, Mountlake Terrace, Kent and Ellensburg.