Vitreous syneresis is a condition that predominantly affects older people; over 75 per cent of the population over the age of 65 develop a Posterior Vitreous Detachment, and it is not uncommon for it to develop in someone’s 40s or 50s. However, it can affect people at any age and younger people can face particular difficulties. Advanced imaging systems have demonstrated vitreous liquefaction beginning by age 4. It is now currently believed that as much as 20% of the vitreous will undergo liquefaction by the late teenage years.
Like older adults, the majority of youngsters cope well with vitreous degeneration and minor eye floaters. However for a minority it can present significant emotional and practical problems.
Any child or young person with symptoms of DVS should be referred for a thorough ophthalmic assessment in order to rule out any underlying pathology including wider genetic syndromes. Armed with a correct diagnosis and accurate information, young people and their families are better able to take appropriate steps. In the absence of accurate information, children and young teenagers are liable to come to their own conclusions, some young people really do believe they have insects in their eyes for example.
Being told that they have a older person’s condition can make a young person feel confused, sad and concerned about their health and future, particularly if it is associated with other health conditions. Meanwhile support services and online social networks may not be geared towards them and it is unlikely they will meet other people their age with the condition which can leave them feeling isolated and unusual. Doctors should take care to explain to young people why this has happened to them, what to expect for their vision in the short and longer term and where they can get help.
At present, there are no services that offer specialist counseling for people with DVS. Nevertheless, help is available from sight services such as RNIB’s Eye Health helpline, general counselors or support groups. It is extremely important that they have the opportunity to talk to somebody who takes them seriously and who helps them develop strategies to cope with any problems.
DVS can be most intrusive in bright, visual environments which are an everyday feature for children and young people. Playgrounds, classrooms, concerts, computers, holidays, reading, painting and even playing musical instruments can all be challenging activities for the DVS sufferer. However, avoiding these completely can have serious consequences for children and young people in the midst of studies or their early working lives. We have received accounts of people abandoning their degrees or their careers because of DVS.
It is important that tutors and employers are aware of a person’s DVS and can work out strategies, for example, exams can be sat in a separate darker room with computer screens adjusted to a comfortable contrast, accessibility aids can be used and breaks given between close visual work. Suggesting that a person try to ignore eye floaters is generally not helpful, but mental distractions and relaxation techniques certainly can help. For further advice about conservative management techniques, read our Managing DVS page.
Perhaps the most positive thing to emphasise to young people struck with DVS is that the world of technology moves quickly and they are young enough to benefit from the future medical advancements we are all working towards.