Flashes and Posterior Vitreous Detachment Relief Options
Living with vitreous floaters and Posterior Vitreous Detachment can become uncomfortable over time and as the condition intensifies. To learn how to deal with your symptoms, get valuable knowledge on what eye floaters are in the first place and what can cause them from the Northwest Arkansas eye specialists, Dr. John DellaCroce and team.
Understanding Vitreous Floaters and PVD
Mild floaters in the vision are normal and are noticeable as tiny specks, dots, hairlike lines, and cobweb-like opacities in your vision. They are from small opacities in the gel (vitreous) that fills the eye. When vitreous floaters come across your vision, you are seeing the shadows that these opacities cast on the retina. They are most noticeable when looking at a light background such as a cloudless sky, blank wall, or brightly lit computer screen.
With age, the vitreous gel begins to condense or shrink. The vitreous can also form clumps or strands of opaque vitreous fibers as the years go by, causing more symptomatic floaters. As the vitreous becomes more liquified with age, it can pull away from the back of the eye, causing a Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD). Flashes (photopsias) often occur when the vitreous is loosening from the retina as pulling is happening on the retina from the shrinking vitreous.
When PVD occurs, it will often cause larger floaters to be present that were not noticed previously, appearing like cobwebs, dust, or a swarm of bugs, or sometimes as a crescent or ring shape as the portion of vitreous around the optic disc releases (Weiss Ring).
The flashes that accompany PVD are most noticeable in the dark. Most patients experience floaters and flashes in the first few weeks a PVD is occurring. PVD can sometimes be associated with a vitreous hemorrhage, retinal tears, retinal detachment, and epiretinal membrane (macular pucker).
Some patients have flashes that appear as jagged lines or heat waves. They can occur in one or both eyes and can last up to 20 minutes. These types of flashes can be associated with a migraine. This is due to a blood vessel spasm in the brain and can be followed by a headache. In some instances, there are only light flashes and no headache. This is called an ophthalmic migraine.
Risk Factors for Development of Posterior Vitreous Detachment
Risk factors for PVD include:
- Myopia (nearsightedness)
- Recent Eye Surgery
PVD is rare in people under the age of 40. It is increasingly common during advanced age. People with PVD in one eye will often experience PVD in the other eye within one year.
Methods of Flashes and Posterior Vitreous Detachment Repair
The first step in treating eye floaters is typically treating issues the patient has that may be causing the disturbance in the eyes, such as bleeding from diabetes or inflation. Eye floaters are uncomfortable and annoying, and adjusting to them may take some getting used to. After patients know their floaters won’t cause any major problems, many can live with this condition by ignoring them. If your floaters worsen and you are unable to notice them less often, there are some treatment options to eliminate this pesky problem.
- Surgery to remove the vitreous: Through a small incision (vitrectomy), an ophthalmologist removes the vitreous and replaces it with a solution to help your eye maintain its shape. When considering this surgery, it’s important to remember that this procedure may not remove all floaters, and new floaters can develop after surgery. Other risks include retinal tears and bleeding.
- Using a laser to disrupt the floaters: To break up floaters and make them less noticeable, an ophthalmologist can aim a special laser at the floaters in the vitreous. The success of this treatment may vary, with some patients reporting improved vision while others notice little or no relief. Risks of laser therapy include damage to your retina.
Most floaters from PVD will dissipate over time as the thicker, more opaque portion of the gel settles out of the line of sight. Sometimes severe floaters can persist and can be removed surgically, but that is rarely necessary. PVD is a non-sight-threatening condition, and the symptoms tend to subside over weeks to months. In some instances of PVD, serious complications can occur, such as retinal tear and retinal detachment. One or more checkups are recommended within the first three months after a PVD to rule out any serious issues such as retinal tears or early retinal detachment.
Even though vitreous floaters are often not a severe condition, living with them can lead to discomfort. If you’re tired of living with the annoyance that eye floaters can bring, contact the experts at Retina Center of Arkansas. Board-certified ophthalmologist, Dr. John T. DellaCroce can help you choose the right treatment or procedure to bring you relief no matter your eye care needs.