Proliferative vitreoretinopathy

What is it?

Proliferative vitreoretinopathy is a condition that can develop as a complication of a detached retina. The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue lining the back of the eye.

Having a detached retina means that it has come away from the supporting tissue underneath it. This can happen when fluid builds-up under the retina after coming from the compartment of the eye that's in front of the retina through a hole or tear. 

In proliferative vitreoretinopathy, some of the cells in the retina start to multiply and  may produce scar tissue. The scar tightens and pulls the retina away again. If this happens, it is not possible to reattach without sight loss.

  • Causes

    Proliferative vitreoretinopathy happens when cells in the retinal pigment epithelium (one of the different layers that make up the retina) come into contact with fluid from the vitreous humour – a clear gel that fills the space in front of the retina. The contact triggers an immune system response that tells the cells to start multiplying.

  • Symptoms

    If proliferative vitreoretinopathy leads to scar tissue, the scar will block light from reaching parts of the retina. This will mean there are some patches of sight loss in the affected eye. Because it's a complication that can follow surgery to re-attach a detached retina, the medical team will monitor your recovery to find out whether it is likely to develop.

  • Treatments

    A second operation to re-attach the retina is the only treatment for proliferative vitreoretinopathy but there will be sight loss in the area of retina affected by scar tissue.

  • Research

    We urgently need to develop treatments that could stop proliferative vitreoretinopathy from developing. Unfortunately the drugs that could treat it are not suitable for people with retinal detachment as they could also damage the eye and cause sight loss. So one goal for research is to develop safer drug treatments. We also need to understand more about the factors that increase the risk of it happening.

    Read our research projects
  • Clinical trials

    You could play an important part in eye research by being a participant in clinical research study that may benefit many people. You could even help shape clinical research by becoming more actively involved and having a say. Patients, carer, or anyone with an interest can help.

    What are clinical trials

    Clinical trials are research studies that find out if a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. They are a key research tool for improving medical knowledge and patient care. The people who carry out research are mostly the same doctors and healthcare professionals who treat people. Their aim is to find better ways of treating patients and keeping people healthy.

    Taking part

    Here are some ways to find out about research projects and clinical trials that you can get involved in.

    UK Clinical Trials Gateway

    The UK Clinical Trials Gateway run by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) provides easy to understand information about clinical research trials running in the UK, and gives to a large range of information about these trials. It is designed to enable patients and clinicians to locate and contact trials of interest. Visit their website and select the eye condition that you are interested in.

    NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio

    The NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio is a database of high-quality clinical research studies in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Within this the Ophthalmology Specialty Group supports a national portfolio of research studies in ophthalmology and the vision sciences. See their website for details.

    If you wish to join a trial it is always best to discuss this with your doctor or clinical team first.

Last updated September 2015
Approved by Mr David Charteris, Moorfields Eye Hospital

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