Posterior vitreous detachment (Flashes and Floaters)


What is posterior vitreous detachment?

Posterior vitreous detachment is an eye condition. The vitreous is the clear, jelly-like substance in your eye. It provides shape and nutrients to your eye. With posterior vitreous detachment, this jelly becomes more liquid and comes away or detaches from your retina (the light sensitive layer at the back of your eye). It then starts to move around.


What causes posterior vitreous detachment?

The vitreous changes with age, so posterior vitreous detachment most commonly affects people over the age of 65. There is nothing you can do to prevent it.


What are the signs and symptoms and do I need any tests to confirm the diagnosis?

You may notice:

· black ‘floaters’ in your vision which move and then settle as the eye rests

· flashing lights like little flickers in the periphery (edges) of your vision.

Posterior vitreous detachment does not permanently affect your eyesight.


How is it diagnosed?

An ophthalmologist (specialist eye doctor) or nurse practitioner will put eye drops into your eye to dilate (enlarge) your pupil. This enables them to look at the middle and back of your eye with a microscope. These eye drops will affect your vision and make things appear blurred – this usually lasts for two to three hours. You must not drive while your vision is affected.


What treatments are available?

There is no treatment available for posterior vitreous detachment. By having your eyes checked, you can be reassured that this is the cause of your symptoms and nothing more serious. You may find the symptoms irritating at first but they will settle and gradually become easier to live with. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to make the symptoms go away.


Is there anything I should look out for?

Contact the eye casualty as soon as possible if the symptoms become worse and you notice:

· an increase in flashing lights

· an increase in size or numbers of ‘floaters’

· a ‘cobweb’ or ‘curtain’ coming over your vision

· sudden deterioration of your vision.

These could be the signs of a tear in your retina. This happens if the vitreous is so firmly attached to the retina that it pulls and tears the retina as it moves away. This is very rare and can be treated.