Vitreous detachment, what is it and how to act when it happens?

What is vitreous detachment?

The vitreous is a kind of jelly that fills a compartment, called vitreous chamber, which occupies two thirds of the ocular contents, from the posterior face of the lens to the retina.

The vitreous consists of collagen fibers, proteins, hyaluronic acid, mucopolysaccharides and solutes. Its appearance is totally transparent, since it is composed of 98% water.

Over the years the vitreous gets older and loses its gel properties, this causes it to dry out and shrink, making possible the appearance of small floating strands inside it, that is to say, floaters are produced. This would be nothing more than what is called vitreous syneresis, the degeneration of the vitreous.

When the vitreous detachment occurs with greater intensity, what happens is a contraction of the vitreous that separates from the retina, when this occurs there may be a break in the retina. These circumstances can cause traction of the retina which, if it occurs completely, the person will begin to see flashes of light and a tangle in front of the eye in a sharp way that prevents the patient from seeing, which is synonymous with a vitreous detachment.

What to do when we notice symptoms of vitreous detachment?

When the patient begins to notice symptoms typical of vitreous detachment, he/she should go immediately to the ophthalmologist, as it may be the prelude to much more important problems, such as retinal detachment.

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It should be taken into account that a vitreous detachment and a retinal detachment are not the same thing, but a vitreous detachment can lead to a retinal detachment. If this happens, the specialist in Ophthalmology will analyze the retina, and, if it has not led to something more serious, no treatment would be necessary, it is simply recommended to avoid traction on the retina by taking a certain amount of rest, avoiding bending the head sharply and not doing physical exercise to avoid possible secondary alterations in the retina after this vitreous detachment.

How long does the danger last from the moment a vitreous detachment occurs?

It is in the first 40-45 days, from the time the vitreous collapses, when there is a greater chance of a retinal rupture. Once those days pass, the vitreous stops pulling and the chances decrease.

During the period in which the danger is greater, the patient must be more careful and follow-up by the ophthalmologist is very important. During the consultation, the patient is told about the effects that he/she may notice and that he/she should go to the emergency room quickly if he/she experiences signs such as red spots, caused by the blood after the retinal tear, or flashes of light, among others.

Every attempt should be made to avoid retinal rupture, but if it does occur, the procedure would be to seal it with a laser to prevent fluid from entering and detaching the retina.