Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is a condition in the eye that occurs when the vitreous humor detaches from the back of the eye and may expose the retina. (Learn More)

PVD is most closely associated with age, which can cause changes in the fluid consistency of the vitreous, making detachment from the retina more likely.

You may experience more floaters or flashes of light in your vision, but these symptoms are rarely disturbing. If you experience a sudden rise in these symptoms or have a darkening of your vision, you should see an eye doctor immediately. (Learn More)

Because PVD is so common and rarely causes complications, there are few medical treatments. If there is damage to your retina, you may undergo laser surgery to correct this, but these treatments focus on correcting, stopping, or preventing damage to the retina and macula rather than managing the vitreous.

If you are concerned about this condition, speak with an optometrist or ophthalmologist about your risks and possible approaches to treatment. (Learn More)

man rubbing eyes

What Is Posterior Vitreous Detachment, or PVD?

There are many parts of the eye, and one of the most important is the vitreous or vitreous humor, which is the fluid or gel in the middle of the eye. This fluid creates pressure to keep the eye in shape and maintain the health of organs in the eye like the lens and the retina.

Typically, this gel-like substance remains attached to the retina, at the back of the eye; however, sometimes the vitreous may separate from this part of the eye, which can cause visual disturbances or distortions. This event is called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).

Many people experience PVD, which heals on its own. Age is the most common cause of this problem. As you get older, the vitreous in your eye will become less solid, like a gel, and more like a liquid. This may cause it to lose shape, shrink, and pull back from parts of the eye, including the back of the eye or the posterior. There are millions of microscopic fibers that typically keep the vitreous and the retina attached, but these may break, causing the separation.

How Do You Know if You Should Worry About PVD?

eye floaters

Although PVD may sound like a serious medical condition, for the most part, there are few symptoms and the condition will likely clear up on its own. If you do notice symptoms,  they may include:

  • Flashes of light, especially in the peripheral vision.
  • Floaters, or tiny specks that move around in your field of vision, especially if you did not have these before.
  • Decreased or dark vision, like a curtain or shadow moving across your sight. This is less common.

Most people will experience PVD starting around age 60. Few will be bothered by it.

For the most part, treating PVD means letting the eye heal. If you are concerned, your optometrist or ophthalmologist will recommend resting your eyes or head for a day or two. You may be at higher risk of PVD if:

  • You are nearsighted.
  • You have had cataract surgery or other eye surgeries.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have experienced an eye injury.

Mild floaters in the eye are very common, and they are not likely to even indicate PVD. Particles are common in the vitreous itself; however, if you suddenly develop a lot of floaters in your vision, get new floaters accompanied by flashes in your periphery, or experience sudden darkness in your vision, get help from a medical professional immediately. This is not necessarily PVD, but something more serious like retinal detachment, which could be caused by long-lasting PVD or PVD that occurs suddenly and tears the retina.

How Is PVD Diagnosed and Treated?

Smiling mature patient consulting with optometrist for an eye checkup

People who develop PVD typically do not need any medical treatment. Symptoms will progress slowly over one to three months, then get better. About 85 percent of people who develop PVD never experience any complications.

PVD will be diagnosed with an eye exam, in which your pupils are dilated. If your vitreous is very clear, your eye doctor may not be able to see if the fluid has detached from the retina or not, so they may perform other tests, including:

  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT).
  • Ocular ultrasound.

If you are diagnosed with PVD, you will need a follow-up exam so your eye doctor can determine how well the area is healing. Complications from waiting are rare, but there is a small risk that there could be damage to the retina if PVD does not heal. This will be determined at your follow-up exam or if you experience any sudden, new, and severe symptoms of vision loss. Laser surgery to stop or treat retinal detachment may be necessary.

In very rare cases, if you have so many floaters in your vitreous that you cannot perform routine tasks, you may undergo vitrectomy surgery, which can remove these particles from your vitreous. Even more rarely, a retinal tear or macular hole formed by PVD can lead to vision loss if left untreated.

There is no way to prevent PVD because it occurs so commonly in older adults and does not have any specific underlying medical condition. If you are at higher risk and are concerned about potential damage to your vision, talk to an optometrist or ophthalmologist. They will ask you questions about floaters or flashes you may experience, and they will examine your eye. They can also inform you of risks in your age group and how other factors like previous eye injuries or surgeries may impact these risks.

For most people, PVD is barely noticeable and nothing to fear. This condition is very unlikely to cause any harm to your eyes, vision loss, or limitations on your current lifestyle, including activity levels and types of work you perform. While there is essentially no way to mitigate PVD, it is unlikely to harm you if you develop it.

References

What Is a Posterior Vitreous Detachment? (February 21, 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

What Are Symptoms of PVD? (February 21, 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Posterior Vitreous Detachment. (2016). American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS).

Facts About Vitreous Detachment. (August 2009). National Eye Institute (NEI).

Can a PVD Cause Vision Loss? (February 21, 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Posterior Vitreous Detachment: What to Know. (January 28, 2019). Healthline.