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Posterior Vitreous Detachment

Condition Basics

What is posterior vitreous detachment (PVD)?

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) happens when 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.

What causes it?

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) happens as a normal part of aging.

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.

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.

What problems can happen when you have PVD?

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) that happens as a normal part of aging 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.

PVD that results from injury, inflammation, or surgery may occur suddenly and may also cause a retinal tear.

What are the symptoms?

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.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: April 29, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine