(pdf file, 6 ill.)
For centuries, scholars try to find an explanation for the mobile, scattered and transparent spheres and strings in our visual field. Early on in ophthalmological tradition, the origin was thought to be in the eye. The phenomenon was considered a disorder or degeneration somewhere between cornea and retina. Today, eye floaters are believed to be an opacity of the vitreous. However, careful observation of floaters reveals properties that challenge this dominant view and call for a reconsideration of the ophthalmological explanation.
In ophthalmology, “eye floaters” is a collective term for vitreous opacities which are attributed to different causes. In most cases, however, the phenomenon is considered a non-pathological (idiopathic) age-related clouding of the vitreous. In this article, my statements on floaters refer to this idiopathic type. According to ophthalmologists, this wide-spread symptom occurs due to the liquefaction (synchysis) and collapse of the collagen-hyaluronic structure of the vitreous (syneresis), which at some stage causes the detachment of the vitreous from the retina (posterior vitreous detachment) (Sendrowski 2010). In daylight, degenerated vitreous structures which are clumped together cast shadows on the retina and become visible in the field of vision. Supposedly, this is what we see when we are looking at our mobile, scattered and transparent dots and strings.
This ophthalmological description is the latest offshoot in a tradition recorded since the time of Hippocrates. Over the centuries, the terms muscae volitantes (Latin, “flying flies”) or myodesopsia (Greek, “seeing fly-like corpuscles”) were used in Greek, Arab and Western
European ophthalmology to describe subjective visual phenomena that look similar to flying flies…