Symptom-Based Risk Factors for Retinal Tears and Detachments in Suspected Posterior Vitreous Detachment

Meleha T. Ahmad, Julia Sein, Jiangxia Wang, Adrienne W. Scott, Janelle Ramroop, Kim Jiramongkolchai, Ingrid E. Zimmer-Galler, James T. Handa, J. Fernando Arevalo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The aim of this study was to determine symptom-level risk factors for retinal tear/retinal detachment (RT/RD) in our patients presenting with symptoms of posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of patients presenting to outpatient ophthalmology clinics at a single academic institution with complaint(s) of flashes, floaters, and/or subjective field loss (SFL). Patients received a standardized questionnaire regarding past ocular history and symptom characteristics including number, duration, and timing of flashes and floaters, prior to dilated ocular examination. Final diagnosis was categorized as RT/RD, PVD, ocular migraine, vitreous syneresis, or "other."Simple and multivariate logistic regressions were used to identify symptoms predictive of various pathologies. Results: We recruited 237 patients (age 20-93 years) from March 2018 to March 2019. The most common diagnosis was PVD (141, 59.5%), followed by vitreous syneresis (38, 16.0%) and RT/RD (34, 14.3%). Of those with RT/RD, 16 (47.1%) had retinal tear and 15 (44.1%) had RD. Significant differences in demographic and examination-based factors were observed between these groups. Symptom-based predictive factors for RT/RD were the presence of subjective visual reduction (SVR; OR 2.77, p = 0.03) or SFL (OR 2.47, p = 0.04), and the absence of either floaters (OR 4.26, p = 0.04) or flashes (OR 2.95, p = 0.009). The number, duration, and timing of flashes and floaters did not predict the presence of RT/RD in our cohort. Within the RT/RD group, patients with RT were more likely to report floaters (100% vs. 66.7%, p = 0.018) and less likely to report SFL (0% vs. 86.7%, p < 0.001) compared to those with RD. Conclusion: While well-known demographic and exam-based risk factors for RT/RD exist in patients with PVD symptoms, the relative importance of symptom characteristics is less clear. We found that the presence of SVR and SFL, as well as the absence of either flashes or floaters, predicts RT/RD in patients with PVD symptoms. However, the number, duration, and timing of flashes and floaters may be less relevant in the triage of these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)570-576
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • Flashes
  • Floaters
  • Posterior vitreous detachment
  • Retinal detachment
  • Retinal tear
  • Symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology


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