A posterior vitreous detachment is a common occurrence as one ages. In fact, it can be found in the majority of people older than 70 years of age. The vitreous is the “jelly” that fills our eyeballs. When we are born, it is attached to the back wall of the eye, or retina. As we age, the jelly “liquefies,” and separates itself from the retina. When the vitreous separates, it often causes one to note strings or floaters. These floaters are often larger and more noticeable than everyday floaters. For example, people notice them when looking at a fluorescent light.
When the vitreous gel separates, it can also cause one to see flashes of light. This is because it pulls on the retina, which is an electrical tissue. If the pulling motion is excessive, rips or tears can form in the retina. If tears in the retina form and are left untreated, persons may develop retinal detachments. For these reasons, thought vitreous detachments are common, they deserve special attention. A retina specialist in uniquely qualified to examine eyes for retina tears, and this consultation should be sought if one develops noticeable floaters or flashes, or changes to a usual floater pattern.