What is Vitreous Humor?
The vitreous humor is the largest component of the eye. It is a colorless, gelatinous, highly hydrated matrix that fills the posterior (back) part of the eye between the lens and retina. Many proteins that influence retinal physiology can be found within the vitreous humor including growth factors, hormones, proteins with transporter activity, and enzymes.
- Vitreous humor is a colorless, gelatinous material that fills the back of the eye.
- A posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is the separation of vitreous humor from the retina.
- In rare cases, a PVD can result in a retinal tear and should be examined by an eye doctor.
Understanding Vitreous Humor
The vitreous humor is the largest and most hydrated component of the eye. This colorless, gelatinous fluid contains many proteins that play a role in retinal health, including growth factors, hormones, proteins with transporter activity, and enzymes.
A posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is defined as separation of the posterior vitreous humor from the inner limiting membrane of the retina, most associated with aging. A PVD results from the vitreous becoming more liquid and separating at the adhesion between the vitreous humor and retina. The PVD can cause traction on the retina contributing to a condition called macular pucker, retinal holes or retinal tears.
The vitreous humor can be a significant barrier to the penetration of small particle based ocular drug delivery systems. The gel structure and components of the vitreous impact the rate of medication movement to reach the retinal tissue. Treatments for conditions like wet macular degeneration and proliferative diabetic retinopathy are injected into the vitreous humor.
Risk Factors for Vitreous Humor
Aging, refractive error, and many eye diseases are factors that can lead to changes in the vitreous humor.
Vitreous Humor Symptoms
The primary symptom resulting from changes in vitreous humor is increased floaters. With age, the vitreous humor liquifies and contracts resulting in tiny black or gray specks or a cobweb-like appearance. Clumps of collagen fibers form within the vitreous and can cast tiny shadows on your retina called floaters. These tend to move around when the eye moves and may become more apparent in certain lighting conditions.
Floaters warrant a dilated eye exam to ensure no breaks or holes exist in the retina. A retinal detachment can be a serious condition that may present as floaters, flashes of light and/or a curtain-like sensation in one’s vision.
Diagnosing Vitreous Humor
Changes to the vitreous humor can be viewed during a dilated fundus examination. Large changes in the vitreous humor can be identified from photos of the retina.
Vitreous Humor Treatment
Currently, there are no definitive treatments for floaters resulting from liquifying vitreous. However, new onset of floaters warrants an eye exam, and if a retinal hole or tear, or vitreous hemorrhage is discovered, those can be treated.