Vitreous is found at the back of the eyeball and is a clear gelatinous substance that provides nutrients to the retina and cells present inside the inner walls of the eyeball. It is responsible for stabilizing the eyeball and ensuring that light is refracted directly onto the retina. Vitreous is made up 99% water and various molecules, with fiber making up the remaining 1%.
As we enter middle age, vitreous begins to deteriorate and its structure transforms from being gelatinous into a more fluid-like texture. It also shrinks and the fibers found in its structure mix with the liquid to form spots or threads within the eyeball. The shrinking of the vitreous causes it to detach from the back of the retina, which leads to the dark spots or shadows to float around within the eyeball.
Vitreous degeneration is a normal change which commonly affects the elderly, those who suffer from short sightedness, and people who have undergone cataract surgery or laser therapy as well as those suffering from inflammation in the eyeball.
Common symptoms include seeing dark spots in the field of vision with these spots floating around, following the movement of our eyeballs. They are more clearly visible in well-lit spaces, and when looking at a bright wall or white screen such as reading something written on white paper, for example. Sometimes, there may be flashes or flashing visible to the sufferer. This occurs when the vitreous pulls back the retina. That being said, none of the aforementioned symptoms are considered as being an illness and are not a risk to the eyeball itself. They are merely a vision-related annoyance to the person experiencing them. However, as times passes, the dark spots and floaters will appear to gradually decrease due to the person getting used to the condition and adjusting accordingly, reducing any annoyance.
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, you should make an appointment with an Ophthalmologist to assess whether the retina has been damaged or detached. Early diagnosis and treatment in such cases can prevent against permanent blindness.
First Class Honors M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Thailand 2006.