Vitreous Detachment: Risk Factors, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Most of the inside of the eye is filled with vitreous, a substance similar to a gel that helps the eye maintain a round shape.

There are millions of fine fibers entangled within the vitreous that bind to the surface of the retina, the tissue sensitive to the light of the eye.

As we get older, the vitreous contracts slowly, and these fine fibers pull on the surface of the retina.

Normally the fibers break, allowing the vitreous to separate and contract from the retina. This is a vitreous detachment.

In most cases, a vitreous detachment, also known as posterior vitreous detachment, is not dangerous to the eye and does not require treatment.

A vitreous detachment is the separation of the vitreous (or gel) that fills the back of the eye from the retina. The symptoms of a vitreous detachment include flashes.

The greatest concern when vitreous detachment occurs is the risk of developing a retinal tear that can lead to retinal detachment.

It is important to see an ophthalmologist if you develop the signs of a vitreous detachment to make sure you do not have a torn retina.

Often the most annoying part of a vitreous detachment will improve over time. It may take 3-6 months for it to get better. If it persists for longer and has an impact on important activities such as reading or driving, surgery to correct this may be considered.

Because surgery (a vitrectomy) can have possible complications such as cataract formation, retinal detachment, bleeding and infection, among other things, it is important that the symptoms are significant and seriously affect their activities.

Risk factor’s

A vitreous detachment is a common condition that usually affects people over 50, and is very common after 80 years. Short-sighted people are also at greater risk.

Those who have a vitreous detachment in one eye are prone to have it in the other, although it can not happen until years later.

Symptoms and detection of vitreous detachment

As the vitreous shrinks, it becomes somewhat fibrous, and the threads can cast small shadows on the retina that you may notice, which appear as small “cobwebs” or spots that seem to float in your field of vision. If you try to watch these shadows disappear quickly.

A symptom of a vitreous detachment is a small but sudden increase in the number of spots. This increase can be accompanied by flashes of light (rays) in your peripheral vision. In most cases, you will not notice vitreous detachment, you will only find yourself upset by the increased rays.

How is it detected?

The only way to diagnose the cause of the problem is by extensive dilated eye examination. If the vitreous detachment has led to a macular hole or detached retina, early treatment can help prevent vision loss.

What causes it?

In normal eyes, the vitreous joins the surface of the retina through millions of tiny intertwined fibers. As we age, the vitreous contracts slowly, and these fibers pull on the surface of the retina.

If the fibers break, the vitreous can shrink more and separate from the retina, causing a vitreous detachment.


Although a vitreous detachment does not threaten the view, occasionally some of the vitreous fibers pull so strongly on the retina that they create a macular hole or lead to a retinal detachment.

Both conditions are dangerous to the eye and should be treated immediately.

A vitreous detachment does not harm vision by itself. These are serious conditions. Without treatment, a macular hole or detached retina can lead to permanent loss of vision in the affected eye.

If you have any of the above symptoms, consult your ophthalmologist immediately. Early treatment can help prevent the loss of vision of a macular hole or retinal detachment.

Those who experience a sudden increase in lightning vision or an increase in flashes of light in peripheral vision should seek an ophthalmologist to examine their eyes as soon as possible.

Can vitreous detachment lead to retinal detachment?

Sometimes. Well, retinal detachment occurs when any part of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue of the eye, is lifted or pulled out of its normal position in the back wall of the eye. This can happen directly after a vitreous detachment.

When the vitreous separates from the retina, it closely resembles a label that is detached from an envelope. Sometimes, the label comes out clean, but other times, it tears part of the underlying wrapper in the process.

If the vitreous tears the retina when it detaches, it may worsen in a retinal detachment.

Normally, it takes three months for a person to separate the vitreous completely.

If you have vision of rays and spider webs for the first time, you should see your ophthalmologist regularly during the following months so that he or she can make sure you do not have a retinal detachment.

If a retinal detachment is detected early, it can usually be treated with a laser treatment at the ophthalmologist’s office.

If the retinal detachment is not treated for too long (sometimes for only a few days), a much more serious surgery such as vitrectomy or scleral buckle may be necessary.

If you have recently had a vitreous detachment, carefully observe the symptoms of retinal detachment, such as flashes of light, a rain of points and a black curtain entering and moving through your vision in any direction.

If you have any of these symptoms, especially if you have more than one symptom at the same time, consult your ophthalmologist or go immediately to the nearest emergency room.