muscae volitantes
May 12, 2015 6:29 AM   Subscribe

 
They are angels and only special people can see them swimming in the sky in heaven.
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 6:56 AM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh great, so they're inside my eyes. That makes me feel so much better.
posted by cazoo at 7:13 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dear Ted Talks: if you don't want non-science educated people to think floaters are worms inside their eyeballs, please don't put eyes on the "head end" of those cute little animated representations.
posted by aught at 7:17 AM on May 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Floaters, distinguished from "static" aka "visual snow"
posted by hank at 7:35 AM on May 12, 2015


One more fun fact about aging, kids: those floaty things seem to disappear as you get older. (No studies or evidence--pure personal anecdotal observation.)
posted by kozad at 7:37 AM on May 12, 2015


Brain worms
posted by blue_beetle at 7:46 AM on May 12, 2015


That was FREAKING AMAZING.

Blue Field Entoptic Phenomenon!

I've always wondered about the patterns which the stars I've seen wove.
posted by mistersquid at 7:58 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Actually, your floater count grows as you age. This is a symptom of vitreous detachment.

It's normally benign, but a sudden increase in floaters might signal problems with the retina and you should get yourself to a doctor ASAP.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:03 AM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


One more fun fact about aging, kids: those floaty things seem to disappear as you get older.

This 50-something is having the opposite experience, sad to report.
posted by aught at 8:13 AM on May 12, 2015


kozad: ...those floaty things seem to disappear as you get older.

OH I WISH. *flails futilely at invisible gnats*
posted by wenestvedt at 8:15 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Floaters, distinguished from "static" aka "visual snow"

I've been noticing visual snow occasionally in low light conditions (such as dusk) against a low contrast background. There were a couple times this winter when I would have sworn it was snowing outside in the early evening, but it wasn't. (Yes, I see an ophthalmologist regularly, and to be fair, it was usually snowing in the evening this winter anyhow.) It's a very disconcerting effect - I feel bad for people who have serious cases of it where it interferes with their full-light vision.
posted by aught at 8:19 AM on May 12, 2015


Floater can be killed! Eye doctors can zap big ones with lasers and break them up into smaller pieces. The more you know.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:28 AM on May 12, 2015


I sometimes have something which doesn't seem to be visual snow or BFEP, although the TED video demo of BFEP reminds me of what I see, but it's bigger than the BFEP demos.
My visual field moves and shimmers and makes me need to close my eyes. These correlate with stress.
It's probably just one of those things requiring immediate medical attention.
posted by MtDewd at 8:29 AM on May 12, 2015


Field of vision
Floating white
Little v-shaped leucocyte.
Sparkling, but quickly gone,
Scheerer's new phenomenon.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:36 AM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've always wondered if variations of 'floaters' were what some people assume are the Shadow People.
posted by what's her name at 8:39 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


leotrotsky: "Floater can be killed! Eye doctors can zap big ones with lasers and break them up into smaller pieces. The more you know."

So, on the subject of eye ghosts, have you discussed the necessity of avoiding crossing the streams with your optometrist?
posted by Samizdata at 8:41 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've had increasing floaters as I get older. That coupled with my tinnitus changing pitch and getting worse as well as a variety of other little yet worsening bothers has me really wondering why people are looking for a fountain of youth. If this is aging I certainly don't want to extend it.
posted by nevercalm at 8:41 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I had a vitreous detachment in my left eye. Imagine someone squirting an eyedropper of dark green ink (yeah, spinach green) into a fish bowl. And it's so close to the retina that it's in perfect focus and it moves and swirls about with every eye twitch. And it takes months to dissipate and become fairly unnoticeable. And in the process it mutates into swarms of black dots (dead blood cells) flying about, again in perfect focus. And only then do you notice that since it's detached, the vitreous bobbles and jiggles about freely giving you permanent jello vision in that eye as well. Fun! Happens to us older folks most, especially if we are myopic...
posted by jim in austin at 8:47 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Floater can be killed! Eye doctors can zap big ones with lasers and break them up into smaller pieces

brb, got a thirty-plus year old argument to win about the enduring value of all those 10ps I sank into Asteroids.
posted by comealongpole at 8:51 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


What are those floaty things in your eye?

Oh man, that is one of those questions that I've always wondered about but never dared to ask.

Maybe now someone can tell me why eating too much ice cream too fast makes my head hurt.
posted by sour cream at 8:55 AM on May 12, 2015


Ice-cream headache? Oh, you mean sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia...
posted by Devonian at 9:45 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Eye doctors can zap big ones

You got some good citations on that? I have really bad floaters as a result of vitreous detachments and my opthalmologist tells me that the people who advertise laser treatments are pure snake oil peddlers--and the Google research I've done seemed to support that. If you could point me to well-documented treatment for floaters I'd be forever in your debt.
posted by yoink at 9:48 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


In very bright sunlight, with a nice bright background like a sidewalk or a beach, I can see sort of refractory swirls when I move my eyes. They sort of look like the swirls you can see when you first start stirring sugar syrup into water.
The first time I noticed them, I got freaked out by what I thought were dark tendrils reaching up from the bottom of my field of vision.
When I crawled back down off the top of my own head, I realized it was just a weird light trick, and I played contentedly with the swirlies for probably twenty minutes while I waited for a train.
Then I started imagining what kind of horrid sight-plague would corrupt the vision with black tendrils, and be communicated by eye contact, thus able to infect most of the world super-quick.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:59 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see stars or lights sometimes when I'm weightlifting. I hear it's a blood pressure issue. Does anybody else get that? It's like a kaleidoscope in your vision. Pretty, but worrying.
posted by domo at 10:07 AM on May 12, 2015


Not an eye doctor but from the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery:

Sounds like practitioners are split on the efficacy.

Here's a study:

Posterior vitreous detachment was the primary cause of floaters in all 42 eyes with co-existing vitreous veils in three eyes and asteroid hyalosis in two eyes. Thirty-nine of 42 eyes received Nd:YAG vitreolysis. Thirty-eight percent found Nd:YAG vitreolysis moderately improved their symptoms while 61.5% found no improvement. After an average of 14.7 months follow-up no post-operative complications were recorded. Fifteen eyes underwent a pars plana vitrectomy, one with combined phacoemulsification and posterior chamber implantation and 11 following unsuccessful laser vitreolysis. Pars plana vitrectomy resulted in full resolution of symptoms in 93.3% of eyes. One patient developed a post-operative retinal detachment which was successfully treated leaving the patient with 6/5 VA.

Less invasive, but also less likely to be successful.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:48 AM on May 12, 2015


Straight Dope covered this many moons ago.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:33 PM on May 12, 2015


This is an awesome explainer on this. Thanks for posting.

*Considers making a Luis Bunuel-based joke on the best way to get at floaters, but can't figure out the set up or punchline. Decides against it.*
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:13 PM on May 12, 2015


Floaters are strong against bullets but weak to plasma and explode when destroyed; mind their blast radius!
posted by Sebmojo at 1:58 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Considers making a Luis Bunuel-based joke on the best way to get at floaters, but can't figure out the set up or punchline.

You do get to use the Pixies for the soundtrack, though.
posted by gimonca at 2:13 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I had a vitreous detachment in my left eye. Imagine someone squirting an eyedropper of dark green ink (yeah, spinach green) into a fish bowl. And it's so close to the retina that it's in perfect focus and it moves and swirls about with every eye twitch. And it takes months to dissipate and become fairly unnoticeable. And in the process it mutates into swarms of black dots (dead blood cells) ...

"Spinach green" because that's the complementary color to the red of blood, I suppose?

If I get hit in the head really hard an inch or two above the outer corner of my right eye, that will fill the eye with floaters so dark and abundant the world looks like a shaken snow globe full of flakes of coal, and it takes maybe half an hour for shapes to reemerge -- a legacy of the kind of retinal detachment that can only be fixed by popping the eyeball out onto the cheek, freezing the retina back into place with liquid nitrogen, and dissecting the sclera in order to sew a fat silicone rubber band into it which squeezes the eyeball.

The last time this happened, it finally occurred to me a couple of days later to wonder whether the floaters had settled down or up. Because if they had settled down toward the bottom of the eyeball, it would have looked to me like they were rising up and vice-versa, since the image of the world is projected onto our retinas upside down.

I'm pretty sure I would have noticed if they had seemed to settle up, and this page tends to confirm that they do live up to their name and float to the top of the eyeball, but it's kind of amusing how mixed up even intelligent people can get when they try to look at the insides of their own eyeballs.
posted by jamjam at 2:25 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I understand that if you have your retina reattached the eye goo can be replaced without floaters. Synthetic eye goo.
posted by asok at 3:50 PM on May 12, 2015


Vitrectomy.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:00 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have lots of dark/obvious floaters that are made worse by the irregularities of cataract surgery, so my Dr sent me to an ophthalmologist to see if there was some kind of laser treatment. He said "No, although there are people out there who will take your money and then try to convince you that it worked." That was disappointing.

Like nevercalm, I'm less enthusiastic about the aging process as every year goes by. After I got my new lenses because of cataracts, they told me, "Well, you've got a good reading eye!" [John Cleese] Yes, that's because the lenses are mismatched so the focal lengths don't overlap, so my glasses prescription compensates by making the left image somewhat smaller than the right.[/John Cleese] "That's ok, your brain will learn to adapt." Really? Is that a solution, or do you just have a firm grasp of the bleeding obvious? I mean, why do I have to adapt? So now my brain has to compensate when I put my glasses on, and then it has to compensate again when I take them off. It's only taken six years to "adapt" - Dr, how long can I expect to remain resentful?

And then there's the tinnitus (likely my own fault for standing next to a fscking Highland piper for 10 years*). Ok, but medicine can't do anything about that either. "You'll get used to it. Your brain will learn to compensate." Well, that's just dandy.

Hello!?! I don't have any brain power to spare to build more filters. I'm 58 years old, and I'm watching my brain get worse at a whole bunch of tasks as time goes by. I need that brainpower to deal with stuff and enjoy life. (I know, 200 years ago I'd probably be long dead.) But honestly, it really does feel like I can't make simple decisions because I'm too tired half-way through the day, and my visual world is dimming and shrinking. Part of it is aging, and part of it is just too much brain overhead. And after I learned to spell the name of your fscking specialty!! Shakes fist at ophthalmologists everywhere.

*I did hear a lot of great jokes though. His hearing is fine.
posted by sneebler at 4:25 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Vitrectomy.

Aieeee!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:29 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


MtDewd: I sometimes have something which doesn't seem to be visual snow or BFEP....My visual field moves and shimmers and makes me need to close my eyes. These correlate with stress.

If it affects only one eye, it could be an ocular migraine. If it affects both eyes, it's most likely a scintillating scotoma. I have the latter, and they're annoying if I'm trying to read.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:46 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Metafilter. Visual snow. My ophthalmologist has been insisting that I MUST have migraines, has tested me for enlarged optic nerves, has given me an MRI to look for brain tumors, has scolded me for eating too much polar bear liver (excess vitamin A will cause this), but this must be what I have. I will try it out on him next exam.
posted by acrasis at 5:02 PM on May 12, 2015


Yeah, the "visual snow" paper is quite new; I'm going to enjoy showing this to my eye doctor after having been mentioning it for years. You can download the full text as a PDF.
The cite is: Brain. 2014 May;137(Pt 5):1419-28. doi: 10.1093/brain/awu050. Epub 2014 Mar 18.
posted by hank at 6:28 PM on May 12, 2015


Thanks for the post. (And Chrysostom, thanks for the nightmare fuel.) I've been having a hell of a time with floaters for a couple of years. My eye doctor asked how old I was, and since I'm at the half-century mark his advice was just to live and let live. Unless it gets really bad, and then I'm back to Chrysostom's link.

I'm with sneebler, though. I've already got a laundry list of problems I've had for decades. I don't have the requisite brainpower to deal with something new. And yet, that seems to be what medical science and direct observation tell me I have to look forward to. Where's my nice, perfect android body?
posted by bryon at 11:50 PM on May 12, 2015


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