Vitreous Degeneration

Cause And Treatment Of Vitreous Degeneration

Vitreous degeneration is a condition affecting not only humans, but is common in dogs, cats, and horses as well. The interior of the eyeball is filed with a gel-like substance called the vitreous or vitreous humor.  The vitreous functions to provide support to the eyeball, and also serves to protect the retina, which is located in the back of the eye.

The vitreous gel is mostly water, about 99% in fact, with the rest consisting of collagen and hyaluronic acid. Although the hyaluronic acid molecules account for only a tiny fraction of the material within the eyeball, they are responsible for maintaining the consistency of the vitreous gel.

Vitreous Breakdown - Vitreous degeneration is a natural condition, often associated with aging, although there can sometimes be external causes such as trauma. In most instances however, some of the hyaluronic acid molecules undergo a depolymerization, in other words degenerate, causing pockets of the vitreous gel to become watery instead of gel-like. This usually happens slowly, and is normally not a cause of concern. It is only in extreme and rare cases that vitreous degeneration can cause significant vision problems or blindness.

Vitreous degeneration can also lead to a detached retina in a small percentage of cases. The possibility of a detached retina has often been somewhat exaggerated. It can occur, but does so in less than 2% of advanced vitreous degeneration cases. A detached retina occurs when the collapsing gel beings to pull on the retinal tissue.

Floaters – At Times Irritating, But Harmless - For the vast majority of those who experience vitreous degeneration, the only observable symptom will be those little "floaters" most of us see from time to time. The floaters usually resemble spots or specks, though some look like we might imagine cell structures would look like under a microscope. These floaters are bits and pieces of protein or collagen which have broken off as the vitreous humor undergoes changes. These floaters are harmless, and seldom if ever require treatment.

In rare cases, if the number of floaters increases to the point vision is becoming affected, or suddenly increase in number, accompanied by a great deal of flashing, it can be that the retina is in trouble and treatment, sometimes emergency treatment may be necessary.

Surgical Treatments - There are several surgical procedures, based on laser technology, which operate on the vitreous and on the retina. These are quit delicate procedures. In some instances a vitrectomy may be called for, which is a procedure in which the vitreous is removed from the eye and replaced by a saline solution.  This is usually a very effective procedure but is not without risks, and an eye surgeon will usually not perform a vitrectomy unless there is no alternative.

Informational Pamphlets Can Give Peace Of Mind  - If you want to learn more, most ophthalmologist's as well as optometrist's offices have informational pamphlets on various eye conditions including floaters. Floaters, as you may be aware of, can at times almost be entertaining, although more often than not they are a bit of a nuisance and it is usually next to impossible to focus on one without it rapidly moving out of the line of sight.

If you are affected by vitreous degeneration or suspect you might be, it's always a good idea to have a session with an ophthalmologist. Chances are nothing will need to be done, but a periodic eye exam, perhaps an annual exam may be in order to make certain nothing is happening that could affect you vision. Vitreous degeneration is one of those things you needn't be overly concerned about, but it should nevertheless be monitored, just in case.