Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is a very common eye condition. It's caused by natural changes to the vitreous gel which takes up the space inside the eye.
Although PVD causes some frustrating symptoms it doesn’t cause pain, harm the eye or cause permanent loss of vision.
Our Understanding Posterior Vitreous Detachment guide is accredited by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, and is designed to give you a detailed understanding of your eye condition and helpful advice on next steps.
You can also download our full guide on posterior vitreous detachment as a Word document
Your eye is filled with a clear, gel-like substance called the vitreous. When the vitreous comes away from the retina it’s called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).
As you get older the vitreous in your eye becomes more watery, less gel-like and isn’t able to keep its usual shape. This causes it to move away from the retina at the back of the eye towards the centre of the eye.
Because these changes to the vitreous are natural over 75 per cent of people over 65 develop PVD. It’s not a sign of disease or eye health problem and any symptoms usually get better with time.
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The early symptoms of PVD are very similar to the symptoms of a retinal detachment.
It’s really important for you to get a professional diagnosis to confirm that the symptoms aren’t related to retinal detachment, which is a more serious condition.
If you experience any of these symptoms you should arrange to have your eyes examined by an ophthalmologist (hospital eye doctor) or optometrist (optician) within 24 hours:
- a sudden experience of floaters or an increase in their size and number
- flashes of light and/or a change/increase in the flashing lights you experience
- blurring vision
- a dark curtain moving up, down or across your vision.
Long-term PVD symptoms
Once your PVD has been diagnosed you’ll find that the symptoms can be frustrating in the short-term, but usually settle down over time.
- Small flashes of light. As the vitreous detaches, it can pull on the retina. The retina reacts by sending a small electrical charge to your brain that you see as short, small flashes of light. When the vitreous gel becomes fully detached this symptom should settle down – although many people experience some flashes from time to time.
- Floaters. As the vitreous becomes more watery, small, harmless clumps of cells develop and float in the gel. These can cast a shadow onto the retina. You might see floaters as dots, circles, lines, clouds or cobwebs. They might move around quickly or hardly move at all. Some people may have many distracting floaters and other people may have hardly any. Usually floaters become less and less noticeable with time.
- Cobweb affect. As the vitreous pulls away from the retina you might see the thicker, outer edge of the vitreous. This can change the way light passes through the eye and it can feel like you’re looking through a cobweb. This effect disappears when the vitreous comes away from the retina.
There is no medical treatment for PVD and no evidence to show that eye exercises, diet changes or vitamins can help.
Although it is possible to remove the vitreous by surgery the symptoms caused by PVD usually get better on their own over time, because of this surgery is not usually offered to people in the UK.
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