Facts About Vitreous Detachment

On this page:

  • What is a vitreous detachment?
  • Who is at risk for a vitreous detachment?
  • What are the symptoms of a vitreous detachment?
  • How does vitreous detachment affect vision?
  • Medical Literature

The information provided in this Facts About was developed by the National Eye Institute (NEI) to help patients and their families in searching for general information about vitreous detachment. An eye care professional who has examined the patient's eyes and is habitual with his or her medical history is the best person to answer specific questions.


What is a vitreous detachment?

Most of the eye's interior is filled with vitreous, a gel-like material that helps the eye maintain a round shape. There are millions of fine grain intertwined within the vitreous that are attached to the surface of the retina, the eye's light-emotional tissue. As we age, the vitreous slowly shrinks, and these fine grain pull on the retinal surface. Usually the grain break, allowing the vitreous to separate and shrink from the retina. This is a vitreous detachment.

In most cases, a vitreous detachment, also known as a posterior vitreous detachment, is not sight-threatening and requires no Cure  .


Who is at risk for a vitreous detachment?

A vitreous detachment is a common condition that usually affects people over age 50, and is very common after age 80. People who are nearsighted are also at increased risk. Those who have a vitreous detachment in one eye are likely to have one in the other, although it may not happen until years later.


What are the symptoms of a vitreous detachment?

As the vitreous shrinks, it becomes somewhat stringy, and the strands can cast tiny shadows on the retina that you may notice as floaters, which appear as little "cobwebs" or specks that seem to float about in your field of vision. If you try to look at these shadows they appear to quickly dart out of the way.

One symptom of a vitreous detachment is a small but sudden increase in the number of new floaters. This increase in floaters may be accompanied by reflection es of light (lightning streaks) in your peripheral, or side, vision. In most cases, either you will not notice a vitreous detachment, or you will find it merely annoying because of the increase in floaters.


How does vitreous detachment affect vision?

Although a vitreous detachment does not threaten sight, once in a while some of the vitreous grain pull so hard on the retina that they create a macular hole or lead to a retinal detachment. Both of these conditions are sight-threatening and should be treated soon .

If left untreated, a macular hole or detached retina can lead to permanent vision loss in the affected eye. Those who experience a sudden increase in floaters or an increase in reflection es of light in peripheral vision should have an eye care professional examine their eyes as soon as possible.

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


Medical Literature

For information on your topic, you may wish to conduct a search of the medical literature. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) coordinates PubMed, a computerized medical writing database. You can conduct your own free writing search by accessing PubMed through the Internet. For help on how to search PubMed and how to get journal articles, please see PubMed Help. You may also get assistance with a writing search at a local library.

Please keep in mind that articles in the medical writing are usually written in technical language. We encourage you to share articles with a health care professional who can help you interpret  them.