Vitreomacular adhesion (VMA) is a human medical condition where the vitreous gel (or simply vitreous) of the human eye adheres to the retina in an abnormally strong manner. As the eye ages, it is common for the vitreous to separate from the retina. But if this separation is not complete, i.e. there is still an adhesion, this can create pulling forces on the retina that may result in subsequent loss or distortion of vision. The adhesion in of itself is not dangerous, but the resulting pathological vitreomacular traction (VMT) can cause severe ocular damage.
The current standard of care for treating these adhesions is pars plana vitrectomy (PPV), which involves surgically removing the vitreous from the eye. A biological agent for non-invasive treatment of adhesions called ocriplasmin has been approved by the FDA on Oct 17 2012.
Over time, it is common for the vitreous within the human eye to liquify and collapse in processes known as syneresis and synchisis respectively. This creates fluid-filled areas that can combine to form pockets of vitreous gel that are mostly liquid with very small concentrations of collagen. If these liquid pockets are close enough to the interface between the vitreous gel and the retina, they can cause complete separation of the vitreous from the retina in a normally occurring process in older humans called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). PVD in of itself is not dangerous and a natural process.
If the separation of the vitreous from the retina is not complete, areas of focal attachment or adhesions can occur, i.e. a VMA. The pulling forces or traction from this adhesion on the retinal surface can sometimes cause edema within the retina, damage to retinal blood vessels causing bleeding, or damage to the optic nerve causing disruption in the nerve signals sent to the brain for visual processing. It is important to note that while the VMA itself is not dangerous, the resultant pulling on the retina called vitreomacular traction (VMT) causes the above damage. The size and strength of the VMA determine the variety of resulting pathologies or symptoms.
VMA can also lead to the development of VMT/traction-related complications such as macular puckers and macular holes leading to distorted vision or metamorphopsia; epiretinal membrane; tractional macular oedema; myopic macular retinoschisis; visual impairment; blindness. The incidence of VMA is reported as high as 84% for patients with macular hole, 100% for patients with vitreomacular traction syndrome, and 56% in idiopathic epimacular membrane.