In last month’s article, I described the symptoms of a retinal detachment, with the most common phenomenon of flashing lights and floating spots in one’s vision. Since that article I had several patients visit me at the office with these very symptoms and had concerns that they were suffering from a retinal detachment. In fact all these patients suffered a vitreous detachment, which does not have the potential of vision damage that a retinal detachment does. You may recall this topic being covered in my column last winter.
The vitreous is a semi-solid to liquid material that occupies up to 75 per cent of the eyeball volume. It is contained within a thin sac that is tightly adhered to the retina, or the inner layer of the eye. One role of the vitreous is to keep the eyeball inflated much like air in a soccer ball.
Over time, the fibers of the vitreous become more mobile and clump together forming a floater. The floater casts a shadow on the retina, which may appear to the individual as a dust particle or a tiny insect floating in your vision.
The vitreous sac can pull away from the retina resulting in the sudden onset of flashing lights with one or more floaters. This may occur spontaneously, after eye surgery, physical trauma to the head or eye, or due to an inflammatory process. Generally, no treatment is required.
If the vitreous sac pulls away from the retina with excessive force, a retinal hole or tear may result. This has the potential to progress to a retinal detachment. If you remember from last month’s article, a retinal detachment can result in significant vision loss.
Even though the appearance of flashes and floaters from a vitreous detachment can be more of a nuisance than anything, you should have your eyes examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist promptly. You will need to have your pupils dilated to ensure the health of the retina. A cautious approach can go a long way towards preserving vision.