We are born with a dense, clear vitreous gel that fills the back of the eye. Over time this gel liquefies and shrinks in volume allowing it to separate from the retina. This is a normal part of aging, usually occurring between the age of 50-70 and is termed a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).
Symptoms of a PVD include new floaters and occasional flashing lights (most noticeable in dark surroundings). These symptoms usually improve over the course of several weeks. If a PVD progresses normally, the symptoms are typically mild.
However, if the forces of separation are strong, or there is an abnormal adhesion between the vitreous and retina, the PVD can tear the retina or a blood vessel. 85% of patients who experience PVD never develop complications, however, patients bothered by significant flashes and floaters should be seen by an eye specialist to ensure that there is no evidence of a retina tear or bleeding. These conditions can lead to other complications such as retinal detachment or epiretinal membrane which can cause permanent vision loss. Risk factors for the development of a PVD include myopia (nearsighted-ness), trauma, or recent eye surgery. When a patient experiences a PVD in one eye, they will often develop a PVD in the other eye within a year.
A PVD itself is not sight threatening and symptoms usually subside within 3 months. No check-ups are needed once the symptoms resolve. Rarely, the floaters from the PVD persists and vitrectomy surgery to remove the floaters is effective if they are bothersome to your vision.