Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) occurs when the gel that fills the eyeball separates from the retina. The retina is a thin layer of nerve tissue that lines the back of the eyeball. It’s responsible for detecting light and turning it into visual images.
Following PVD, there’s often an increase in specks or shadows of gray or black in your vision. It also may make you see flashes of light, usually at the side of your vision.
PVD isn’t painful, and it usually doesn’t cause vision loss unless you have a complication, such as:
But complications are rare, occurring in fewer than 15% of people with PVD.
PVD is a natural and common age-related eye problem. It’s rare in people younger than 40, usually occurring after age 60. The chances of developing this condition increase as you get older. If you’ve had PVD in one eye, you’re more likely to develop it in the other eye. Certain factors make posterior vitreous detachment more likely, including:
The eyeball is filled with vitreous gel. This gel is made mostly of water and a protein called collagen. As you age, the gel becomes more liquid and the attachment of the back surface of the gel to the retina dissolves, leading to the gel separating from the retina.
The symptoms of PVD are:
The symptoms are usually mild and become less noticeable within a few months, as your brain learns to ignore them. If you experience the symptoms of PVD, reach out to your eye care provider.
If you have PVD symptoms, you should visit an eye specialist (ophthalmologist or optometrist) right away. An eye exam can identify any serious problems and reduce the risk of permanent damage and vision loss.
The specialist will conduct a few tests:
Your healthcare provider will treat the complications of PVD, not the condition itself. You should have an eye exam when your symptoms start and again four to six weeks later. During a follow-up eye exam, your provider will be looking for several things. First, your provider will be checking to make sure nothing was missed during your PVD diagnosis. Second, your provider will look for any complications. There may not have been a retinal tear, for example, during the first exam, but it can be there during a future exam.
Although it isn’t common, some people with long-lasting floaters that bother them could be candidates for a vitrectomy. In this surgery, a specialist makes a tiny opening in the wall of your eye. Then, the surgeon uses suction to remove the vitreous gel from your eye.
There’s no way to prevent posterior vitreous detachment. It’s a normal, natural part of aging.
You should report any changes in vision to an eye specialist. They can detect other eye conditions and prevent complications.
People with PVD can usually go about their normal activities with no restrictions.
Although the condition doesn’t go away, floaters and flashes become less noticeable over time. It’s common to develop PVD in the other eye in the next year or two after your first diagnosis. If you experience symptoms in the other eye, a repeat exam is needed to be sure there isn’t a retinal tear or detachment in your second eye.
Most people don’t develop complications such as a retinal tear. But you should have an eye exam to make sure you don’t have a more serious condition.
Some techniques may help you cope with the floaters and flashes that come with posterior vitreous detachment, such as:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) occurs when the gel that fills the eyeball separates from the retina. It’s a natural, normal part of aging. PVD can cause floaters or flashes in your sight, which usually become less noticeable over time. The condition isn’t painful, and it doesn’t cause vision loss on its own. But you should see an eye specialist to make sure you don’t have another problem, such as a retinal tear.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/29/2021.