A severe but treatable disorder, vitreomacular adhesion (VMA) impacts the central jelly-like part of the eyeball and the macula situated on the retina. One of the most sensitive parts of the retina, the macula enables one to see the finer details. As one grows older, the jelly-like substance in the eye starts to shrivel. Eventually, it separates from the retina. However, sometimes, the jelly doesn’t completely pull away and glues to the macula, causing vitreomacular adhesion. It can strongly hold on to the macula, pulling it. When this happens, it begins to affect the vision of a person. In medical terms, this is known as symptomatic VMA.
Often, VMA is observed in individuals over the age of 50. It happens to be quite common in patients older than 70 years of age. Interestingly, it is more likely to affect women and people who are nearsighted. If left untreated, it can further cause distorted vision, and some cases elevate the risk of blindness.
Symptoms of VMA
If one is experiencing any of the following symptoms, they should notify their doctor immediately:
- Dull, unclear vision
- Wavy vision, that is, objects look distorted
- Micropsia, that is, a condition where things appear smaller than they actually are
The doctor will diagnose VMA with the help of optical coherence tomography (OCT). This exam uses light to take photographs of the retina and maps the various layers of the eye. The ophthalmologist will dilate the pupils of the eye using special eye drops to take a better look at the retinal structure.
If the doctor concludes that the VMA symptoms aren’t that serious, they may want to wait and observe if the patient’s vision improves on its own. However, if the condition aggravates, the ophthalmologist will recommend treatment options to help break the adhesion so that it can’t pull the macula.
Based on the severity of the VMA symptoms, the doctors can either suggest surgery or medications.
Vitrectomy is a surgical procedure in which the ophthalmologist will extract the jelly and replace it with a temporary gas bubble or fluid to alleviate the pressure on the macula. Post surgery, the patient will be required to lie face down so that the substituted bubble or fluid floats to the back of the eye. This will help relieve the pull on the macula, allowing it to recover from the strain.
How well one’s vision improves depends on multiple factors, including the amount of damage to the macula and for how long it affected the eye. Typically, this surgery is done when the vision has suffered severe damage.
If surgery is not recommended, the doctor will use another type of treatment involving medications. In this procedure, medication is directly administered into the eye. It helps separate the jelly from the macula and helps the macula heal from the damage.
Vitreomacular adhesion can’t be prevented. However, it can be spotted early with the help of regular eye exams. An early diagnosis can help the patient manage their condition before it leads to any form of irreversible damage.