Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD) affects 75% of people over the age of 65 but may be helped with dietary and nutritional changes. The jelly-like vitreous gel (vitreous humour) is 99% water and takes up the space between the retina and the lens of the eye. As we get older, the vitreous becomes more liquid and causes a strain on the connective tissue and fibers, often resulting in a tear or detachment from the retina.
Next: Nutritional support, diet, & lifestyle tips to support the vitreous.
- Sudden detachment of the vitreous from the retina area often causes flashes and/or floaters that look like lightning or electric sparks. Symptoms may last days to weeks.
- Sudden increase in the number of floaters
- Sudden ring of floaters to the temporal side of vision (toward the ears).
Symptoms may last days to weeks. At the first sign of any of the above signs and symptoms, you should always get an immediate dilated retinal examination by your eye doctor.
- Aging - as the vitreous thins with age, the risk is greater
- People who are highly myopic (more than 6 diopters) are at greater risk of both retinal and vitreous tears and detachments.2
- Cataract surgery2
- Vitreous detachments can be caused by trauma or blows to the head, and even vigorous nose blowing.
- Excessive computer use may contribute to vitreous detachment.
- After menopause lower levels of estrogen may lead to changes in the vitreous. In premenopausal women, high levels of vitamin B6 may be connected to more frequent PVD due to their estrogen-dampening effect.1
- See "Drugs That Harm the Eyes" for a description of potentially harmful drugs.
- As a side-note, in lab animals it has been observed that the thinning vitreous makes the eye more vulnerable to cataract.3
The vitreous humour fills the center of the eyeball, filling the space through which light passes between the lens of the eye and the retina at the back of the eye. Millions of fine fibers contained in the vitreous attach to the retina surface. There are no blood vessels in the vitreous. Although mostly water, it does contain cells called "phagocytes" that remove unwanted cellular material, hyaluronic acid, "hyalocytes" that reprocess the hyaluronic acid, salts, sugars, vitrosin (a type of collagen), a network of collagen type II fibers and a wide array of proteins in micronutrients.
As we age, the vitreous becomes increasingly liquid causing a strain on the connective tissue and fibers, so that they separate from the retina causing symptoms which often include eye floaters and flashes.
The vitreous is enclosed by a thin membrane of collagen called the vitreous membrane or hyaloid membrane. It is clear, transparent and gelatinous (2-4 times the viscosity of water) and thins with age. The few cells relatively speaking that it contains are mostly phagocytes, whose function is to remove debris. The hyaloid membrane surrounding it is attached only at the optic disk, where nerves pass from the photoreceptor system to the optic nerve and at the Ora serrata, on the top side of the lens (the junction of photo-sensitive and non-photosensitive areas of the retina). The vitreous humor contains only phagocytes, sugars, salts, minute amounts of proteins and vitrosin. Vitrosin is a collagen type protein. Vitrosin fibers floating within the vitreous are kept apart by electrical charges. The vitreous contains no blood vessels.
The most obvious purpose of the vitreous humour is that it maintains a constant pressure holding the shape of the eyeball in place. The phagocytes play a important role in removing waste from the eye.
There may be separation at the Ora serrata or optic disk, where the membrane is attached to the retina, pulling the retina away at the Bruch's membrane. Or the membrane may retract elsewhere, leaving a balloon of space between the vitreous membrane and retina into which fluid can accumulate. Vitreous tears or detachments do not typically cause any permanent vision loss, but can be annoying particularly related to an influx of eye floaters.
Also see information about vitreous floaters.
1. J.Y. Chuo, et al, Risk factors for posterior vitreous detachment: a case-control study, American Journal of Opthalmology, December, 2006.
2. L. Gelia, Incidence, Progression, and Associated Risk Factors of Posterior Vitreous Detachment in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Sankara Nethralaya Diabetic Retinopathy Epidemiology and Molecular Genetic Study, Seminars in Ophthalmology, August, 2015
3. Q. Li, et al, Oxidative responses induced by pharmacologic vitreolysis and/or long-term hyperoxia treatment in rat lenses, Current Eye Research, June, 2013