Growing older brings physical changes, and most people expect gradual signs of aging in their skin, hair, and joints. Many are aware that their sight can deteriorate over time, and it is common for the elderly to rely on visual aids to manage their daily activities. However, symptoms of posterior vitreous detachment can be unexpected and alarming, causing a bit of panic until an ophthalmologist appointment can be scheduled. These are the facts you need to know about this widespread condition.
Understanding Posterior Vitreous Detachment
The design of your eyes is truly extraordinary. Collecting light for the brain to translate into images requires a variety of specialized cells, all of which perform the specific tasks necessary to make vision achievable.
The round shape of eyes is key to their functionality, and this is made possible by a gel-like substance that fills most of an eye’s interior. The gel is called vitreous, and it is attached to your retinas by millions of microscopic fibers. Over the course of your life, the vitreous starts to break down, which causes fibers to pull against the retina. Eventually, the fibers begin to break, and the vitreous separates from the retina. This condition is referred to as posterior vitreous detachment.
Posterior vitreous detachment is almost inevitable as you get older, and many people experience this phenomenon after the age of 50. By the age of 80, nearly everyone has posterior vitreous detachment to some degree. The good news is that despite its formidable title, posterior vitreous detachment rarely threatens your sight and may not require any special treatment.
Symptoms of Posterior Vitreous Detachment
A surprising number of patients with this condition don’t notice any symptoms at all. They remain unaware of the issue until their ophthalmologist points it out during their annual eye exam. Those that do have symptoms typically report an increase in “floaters”, which appear as tiny specks or cobweb shapes in the visual field. When floaters appear unexpectedly, they can be alarming.
If you start to notice floaters, there is no need to panic. However, it is critical to schedule time with your physician right away, particularly if there is a sudden increase in floaters or you see flashes of light in your peripheral vision. Though serious complications are unusual, they can happen, and delaying treatment can damage your sight.
An abrupt change in your symptoms like increased floaters and lightning flashes can indicate that some of the fibers pulled too hard against your retina as they detached. When this occurs, it can lead to retinal detachment or a macular hole. Retinal detachment is a condition in which the retina is jostled from its standard position, and it must be corrected immediately to prevent vision loss. A macular hole is an actual hole in the retina, which if left untreated can leave you with distorted or blurred vision.
Posterior vitreous detachment is quite common, and many people with this condition don’t even know they have it. Often, no treatment is required, though your eye specialist will monitor any changes during your regular eye exams. In rare cases, posterior vitreous detachment can lead to vision-threatening complications, which makes preventative eye care a critical component of your health plans. Your ophthalmologist is an important partner in ensuring your sight stays clear and reliable, no matter how old you are.
To learn more, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.