Retina Specialists

Phone: 205.933.2625

Degenerative Vitreous Syndrome

Vitreous floaters are a common visual experience for almost everyone at some point in their lives. For most people, the condition is a benign, temporary phenomenon. Some individuals may experience these little squiggly swimmers in their vision at several times in their life. They seem to appear and disappear for no apparent reason. For some people, however, vitreous floaters may be more significant. For a minority of individuals vitreous floaters interfere with their ability to perform certain functions of daily life. This is a condition we term Degenerative Vitreous Syndrome (DVS).

  • Benign Vitreous Floaters – particles that float in the vitreous gel, casting a shadow on the retina. May appear as spots, strings, or cobwebs. Usually transparent. Normally associated with the aging process. Temporary effect.
  • Symptomatic Vitreous Floaters or Vitreous Opacities – sudden appearance of multiple floaters, particularly dark appearing floaters may be an indication of a more serious condition. Dark floaters alone or combined with flashes of light may warn of a torn retina threatening retinal detachment. Large amounts of dark floaters or cobwebs in the vision suggest the possibility of a vitreous hemorrhage. If this is the type of symptom you are experiencing it is essential to see an eye specialist immediately to rule out or treat vision threatening problems. May occur at any age but more commonly seen in older adults.
  • Degenerative Vitreous Syndrome (DVS) – occurs in later adult life. Persistent visual interference that does not subside over months. May impair the ability to read, use a computer or drive. May even appear in the peripheral vision giving the sensation of someone or something approaching from behind or from the side. Efforts to temporarily alleviate visual interference include blinking the eye, rubbing the eyes, closing one eye or moving the head. These maneuvers only give short windows of visual clarity. The constant struggle to achieve adequate visual transparency for some people comes to impact their emotional and physical resilience as well. The impact is more challenging for some high quality detail visual requirements, particularly in dynamic settings, for instance performing music from sheet music.


Advances in intraocular surgery by vitrectomy have evolved to the degree of safety and success that a surgical option is now feasible for debilitating symptoms of degenerative vitreous syndrome. Vitrectomy to remove vitreous opacities combined with a prophylactic retinal detachment laser cerclage to the peripheral retina surgical remedy has become an option for some people.

The 360 degree indirect ophthalmoscope laser photocoagulation to the peripheral retina secures the retina from the risk of retinal detachment sometimes associated with ocular surgery. This procedure is carried out several weeks prior to vitrectomy. Once healing of the retina occurs then the intraocular removal of the symptomatic vitreous is performed with small gauge instruments that do not even require sutures. Relief of symptoms is almost immediate. Recovery takes no more than a week or so depending on the individual and symptoms never reoccur.