The vitreous is the gel-like substance which fills most of the inside of your eye. The vitreous is composed mainly of water and is very similar to a jelly-fish; i.e., a substance which is mainly water, but still has substance.
The vitreous fills the posterior chamber of the eye which is the space behind the iris and the lens.
Purpose of the Vitreous
The vitreous is a vestigial tissue. Like the appendix, it serves no purpose. Important for development, once we are born, there is no physiologic function. We don’t need it.
When I examine patients, I am able to see your vitreous; however, your own vitreous is usually invisible to you. In other words, light gets transmitted perfectly through your own eye and vitreous without casting shadows or creating any visible shapes.
It is normally optically clear.
Other than filling space, it serves no purpose.
Diseases of the Vitreous
There are no diseases of the vitreous. Blood (vitreous hemorrhage) and inflammatory cells (vitritis) may accumulate in the vitreous, but these conditions arise secondary to other complications or diseases of the eye.
The vitreous can; however, cause a variety of problems. In fact, almost every surgery performed by a retinal specialist involves the vitreous. Below are common indications for retinal surgery and all involve the vitreous in a variety of ways.
- Epiretinal Membranes
- Macular Holes
- Retinal Tear and Retinal Detachments
- Diabetic Retinal Detachments
- Macular Edema
Removing the Vitreous is Safe
When operating, I often perform a vitrectomy. Vitrectomy surgery basically involves removing the vitreous and is a basic part of almost every retinal operation. When performing an FOV (vitrectomy to remove floaters or blood), simply removing the vitreous is curative. With other conditions, the vitreous needs to be removed to facilitate operating on the retinal surface.
Modern vitrectomy operations are now safer than modern cataract surgery. 25 gauge technology allows me to operate more safely and efficiently with more comfort to you and a rapid healing time.
What Does this Mean?
Without the vitreous, there would be far fewer retinal surgeries, if any at all. The vitreous only causes problems. In general, removing the vitreous is curative for the retinal diseases listed above. This also explains why most of the diseases are unlikely to recur after an operation.
Luckily, with modern instrumentation, removal of the vitreous has become “routine” compared to even 5-10 years ago and my ability to restore your vision and prevent complications has never been better.