Floating Specks - Better Eyesight, October 1919, Editor: W. H. Bates,M.D.

Discussion in 'Optometry Archives' started by Zetsu, May 11, 2009.

  1. Zetsu

    Zetsu Guest


    A very common phenomenon of imperfect sight is the one known to
    medical science as muscae volitantes, or flying flies. These floating
    specks are usually dark, or black; but sometimes appear like white
    bubbles, and in rare cases may assume all the colors of the rainbow.
    They move somewhat rapidly, usually in curving lines, before the eyes,
    and always appear to be just beyond the point of fixation. If one
    tries to look at them directly, they seem to move a little farther
    away. Hence their name of flying flies.

    The literature of the subject is full of speculations as to the origin
    of these appearances. Some have attributed them to the presence of
    floating specks - dead cells or the debris of cells - in the vitreous
    humor, the transparent substance that fills four-fifths of the eyeball
    behind the crystalline lens. Similar specks on the surface of the
    cornea have also been held responsible for them. It has even been
    surmised that they might be caused by the passage of tears over the
    cornea. They are so common in myopia that they have been supposed to
    be one of the symptoms of this condition, although they occur also
    with other errors of refraction, as well as in eyes otherwise normal.
    They have been attributed to disturbances of the circulation, the
    digestion and the kidneys, and because so many insane people have
    them, have been thought to be an evidence of incipient insanity. The
    patent-medicine business has thrived upon them, and it would difficult
    to estimate the amount of mental torture they have caused, as the
    following cases illustrate.

    A clergyman who was much annoyed by the continual appearance of
    floating specks before his eyes was told by his eye specialist that
    they were a symptom of kidney disease, and that in many cases of
    kidney trouble, disease of the retina might be an early symptom. So at
    regular intervals he went to the specialist to have his eyes examined,
    and when at length the latter died, he looked around immediately for
    some one else to make the periodical exmination. His family physician
    directed him to me. I was by no means so well known as his previous
    ophthalmological adviser, but it happened that I had taught the family
    physician how to use the ophthalmoscope after others had failed to do
    so. He thought, therefore, that I must know a lot about the use of the
    instrument, and what the clergyman particularly wanted was some one
    capable of making a thorough examination of the interior of his eyes,
    and detecting at once any signs of kidney disease that might make
    their appearance. So he came to me, and at least four times a year for
    ten years he continued to come.

    Each time I made a very careful examination of his eyes, taking as
    much time over it as possible, so that he would believe that it was
    careful; and each time he went away happy because I could find nothing
    wrong. Once when I was out of town he got a cinder in his eye and went
    to another oculist to get it out. When I came back late at night I
    found him sitting on my doorstep, on the chance that I might return.
    His story was a pitiable one. The strange doctor had examined his eyes
    with the ophthalmoscope, and had suggested the possibility of
    glaucoma, describing the disease as a very treacherous one which might
    cause him to go suddenly blind and would be agonizingly painful. He
    emphasized what the patient had previously been told about the danger
    of kidney disease, suggested that the liver and heart might also be
    involved, and advised him to have all of these organs carefully
    examined. I made another examination of his eyes in general and their
    tension in particular; I had him feel his eyeballs and compare them
    with my own, so that he might see for himself that they were not
    becoming hard as a stone; and finally I succeeded in reassuring him. I
    have no doubt, however, that he went at once to his family physician
    for an examination of his internal organs.

    A man returning from Europe was looking at some white clouds one day
    when floating specks appeared before his eyes. He consulted the ship's
    doctor, who told him that the symptom was very serious, and might be
    the forerunner of blindness. It might also indicate incipient
    insanity, as well as other nervous or organic diseases. He advised him
    to consult his family physician and an eye specilist as soon as he
    landed, which he did. This was twenty-five years ago, but I shall
    never forget the terrible state of nervousness and terror into which
    the patient had worked himself by the time he came to me. It was even
    worse than that of the clergyman, who was always ready to admit that
    his fears were unreasonable. I examined his eyes very carefully, and
    found them absolutely normal. The vision was perfect both for the near-
    point and the distance. The color perception, the fields and the
    tension were normal; and under a strong magnifying glass I could find
    no opacities in the vitreous. In short, there were absolutely no
    symptoms of any disease. I told the patient there was nothing wrong
    with his eyes, and I also showed him an advertisement of a quack
    medicine in a newspaper which gave a great deal of space to describing
    the dreadful things likely to follow the appearance of floating specks
    before the eyes, unless you began betimes to take the medicine in
    question at one dollar a bottle. I pointed out that the advertisement,
    which was appearing in all the big newspapers of the city every day,
    and probably in other cities, must have cost a lot of money, and must,
    therefore, be bringing in a lot of money. Evidently there must be a
    great many people suffering from this symptom, and if it were as
    serious as was generally believed, there would be a great many more
    blind and insane people in the community than there were. The patient
    went away somewhat comforted, but at eleven o'clock - his first visit
    had been at nine - he was back again. He still saw the floating
    specks, and was still worried about them. I examined his eyes again as
    carefully as before, and again was able to assure him that there was
    nothing wrong with them. In the afternoon I was not in my office, but
    I was told that he was there at three and at five. At seven he came
    again, bringing with him his family physician, an old friend of mine.
    I said to the latter:
    "Please make this patient stay at home. I have to charge him for
    his visits, because he is taking up so much of my time; but it is a
    shame to take his money when there is nothing wrong with him."

    What my friend said to him I don't know, but he did not come back

    I did not know as much about muscae volitantes then as I know now, or
    I might have saved both of these patients a great deal of uneasiness.
    I could tell them that their eyes were normal, but I did not know how
    to relieve them of the symptom, which is simply an illusion resulting
    from mental strain. The specks are associated to a considerable extent
    with markedly imperfect eyesight, because persons whose eyesight is
    imperfect always strain to see; but persrons whose eyesight is
    ordinarily normal may see them at times, because no eye has normal
    sight all the time. Most people can see muscae volitantes when they
    look at the sun, or any uniformly bright surface, like a sheet of
    white paper upon which the sun is shining. This is because most people
    strain when they look at surfaces of this kind. The specks are never
    seen, in short, except when the eyes and mind are under a strain, and
    they always disappear when the strain is relieved. If one can remember
    a small letter on the Snellen test card by central fixation, the
    specks will immediately disappear, or cease to move; but if one tries
    to remember two or more letters equally well at one time, they will
    reappear and move.

    Usually the strain that causes muscae volitantes is very easily

    Zetsu, May 11, 2009
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  2. Zetsu

    Neil Brooks Guest

    Zetsu has long ago reached the level where he/she/it is nothing
    more than the online equivalent of one of those psychotic homeless
    people who stands on the corner, SHOUTING Bible passages, to ...

    What a pathetic little creature.

    Almost SURELY the illegitimate love child of Otis Brown (and ... who
    else?? Desperate people DO do desperate things....).
    Neil Brooks, May 11, 2009
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