The eye is a complex organ. Like most of our organs, we tend not to think about our eyes until they are not working as they should or we experience some type of discomfort. But whether we think about it or not, the eye is made of several parts that work together to help us see. You may be familiar with the terms lens, pupil, and retina—three main parts of the eye. There is, however, a large part of the eye that doesn’t get quite as much attention: the vitreous gel, or vitreous humor.
Composed of mostly collagen and water, vitreous gel makes up 80% of the eyeball. There are two parts of the eye that do not have vitreous gel: the lens at the front and the retinal lining at the back. This clear gel is responsible for maintaining the shape of the eye and creating space for light to pass through before it reaches the retina.
In younger patients, this gel has a firm, jelly-like consistency. However, with age, the vitreous breaks down and takes on more of a liquid consistency. This breakdown is referred to as vitreous detachment or degeneration. As the gel breaks down, thicker parts of the vitreous can glide through the thinner center and separate from the retina. When this happens, it can cast shadows on the retina and appear as darker lines or spots, also known as flashers and floaters.
Learn more about eye flashers and floaters.
Symptoms of Vitreous Detachment
While vitreous detachment is not typically serious, it is important to know the symptoms and what you might experience. Eye flashers and floaters are the most common symptom, and they can vary in severity. If they are impacting your vision so that you cannot perform normal functions, talk to your eye doctor. If they are minor and not impacting your vision, you might even stop noticing them within a few months. You may also notice flashes of light in your peripheral vision.
Less commonly, vitreous detachment can cause more serious symptoms and complications, such as retinal tears, retinal detachment, macular holes, and macular puckers. These eye conditions can lead to vision loss, which is why it is critical to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor if you notice symptoms of vitreous detachment. Your doctor will perform a dilated eye exam to determine whether or not your eyes have experienced vitreous detachment.
In many cases, a vitrectomy can be performed to treat more complicated detachment complications. This procedure can restore vision, but it may not always restore it completely. During a vitrectomy, the eye surgeon will remove cloudy vitreous or scar tissue. They will also replace the naturally-occurring vitreous gel in the eye with salt water or a bubble consisting of a gas and air mixture. Your eye surgeon will only perform a vitrectomy on one eye at a time.
After the procedure, you will wear an eye patch and take eye drops and antibiotics to prevent infection. You may also need to position yourself in a specific way if you had a gas bubble placed in your eye; your eye doctor will give you specific instructions. They will also give you instructions for traveling, as you will not be able to fly for a period of time.
Comprehensive Eye Care in Austin, Texas
If you are looking for eye care in the Austin, Texas area, we would love to work with you. The ophthalmologists at Broberg Eye Care specialize in routine eye exams, as well as more serious eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and more. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.