What is posterior vitreous detachment (PVD)?

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is a condition where your vitreous comes away from the retina at the back of your eye. This detachment is caused by changes in your vitreous gel. PVD isn’t painful and it doesn’t cause sight loss, but you may have symptoms such as seeing floaters (small dark spots or shapes) and flashing lights.

These symptoms will calm down as your brain learns to ignore them. With time, you should be able to see just as well as you could before your PVD started. 

The symptoms of PVD are the same as those of a different eye condition called retinal detachment, which needs prompt treatment to stop you losing part or all of the sight in your eye. Because of this, it’s important to have your eyes examined by an ophthalmologist (also known as a hospital eye doctor) or an optometrist (also known as an optician) within 24 hours of noticing any symptoms so that an accurate diagnosis can be made. 

Any worsening symptoms should be checked out urgently but the otherwise PVD process can take weeks or in some cases months.

About one in 10 people with PVD develop a retinal tear, which, if left untreated will develop into a retinal detachment. A retinal tear or detachment can be successfully treated if diagnosed early.

For information on retinal detachment, see What is retinal detachment?

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