Vitreous gel is a substance inside the eyeball, made up mostly of water and a small amount of collagen and hyaluronic acid. A vitreous hemorrhage occurs when blood leaks into the normally clear vitreous gel. The cause could be a rupture of any blood vessels surrounding the eye. Sometimes, certain conditions cause the development of new, abnormal blood vessels that are very fragile. The vessels may grow right into the vitreous gel.
Cause: Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy develops due to blood sugar issues. It can be irreversible if not caught early, but unfortunately, may start off with no symptoms and not be noticed until symptoms appear. Abnormal blood vessels may form, which are quite fragile and bleed easily. Larger vessels can also be affected. Anyone with diabetes should make regular visits to an eye specialist to ensure diabetic retinopathy is not developing — the condition can cause blindness, but early treatment lowers the chances of this by 95 percent.
Cause: Head or Eye Trauma
Head trauma from car accidents, sports injuries, or any direct blow to the head can cause a vitreous hemorrhage. A direct blow to the eye by a punch or kick can cause blood vessels to bleed into the vitreous gel.
Cause: Posterior Vitreous Detachment
As we age, the vitreous gel tends to shrink. When this occurs, the gel pulls away from the retina at the back of the eye. The retina has small blood vessels in it. Bleeding may happen because the gel pulls on the retina, causing small tears or holes. A fluid forms in the pocket that develops between the gel and the retina.
Cause: Blocked Blood Vessels
Some eye conditions can cause blockage of the vessels which feed the retina, resulting in blood leaking into the vitreous gel. The vessels may be too narrow, or a small clot may have traveled into the eye from elsewhere in the body. Atherosclerosis, a common condition wherein fatty deposits are stuck to the lining of the arteries, may be a factor if small particles break loose and travel to the eye.
Cause: Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited condition that leads the blood cells to become sticky and crescent-shaped. Often, these cells become stuck in small vessels. The tiny vessels of the eye may be clogged up with these cells, and this can damage the retina, causing vision problems and bleeding. Sickle cell anemia can also lead to the new growth of vessels.
Cause: Retinal Tears and Detachment
A detached retina is a medical emergency. Blindness can result if the retina is completely detached, and this requires surgery. If there is a tear in the retina, the vitreous gel can leak behind it and accumulate. If the vitreous gel pulls away from the front of the retina, the retina can peel away from the blood vessels located behind it. Once detached, the retina cannot function and the individual experiences loss of vision. Partial detachment will also cause a gap in vision.
Floaters are small dark spots in the field of vision. They can also appear as shadowy shapes, squiggly lines, and cobwebs. When the eyes move, the floaters go with them, but when you try to focus on them, they dart away. When your eyes rest, they drift and don’t follow your line of vision when looking around. Floaters are a part of the aging process and for most people are just an annoyance. However, a sudden increase of floaters, along with flashes in the peripheral vision or loss of peripheral vision could indicate an issue like a vitreous hemorrhage.
Symptom: Blurry or Reddish Vision
Blurry vision can be a result of bleeding into the vitreous gel. Reddish vision is caused by the blood leaking in and light shining through it. This symptom is painless but an indication that the bleeding may be increasing.
Vitreous hemorrhages can cause flashes to occur in the peripheral vision because the vitreous gel is pulling away from the retina. This can lead to a retinal tear or detached retina, which are medical emergencies. The flashes are painless and may appear suddenly, and should be checked by a doctor.
Symptom: Blind Spots and Dark Streaks
Blind spots or scotomas are distortions in the field of vision. The affected individual may see dark streaks, as well. As the vitreous shrinks, it may create stringy shadows on the retina, which the eye interprets as lines. These are also considered floaters. These symptoms should send a person to an ophthalmologist or an optometrist, as they could be indicative of a vitreous hemorrhage.