Everyone beyond a certain age has them. If you have them you can see them. Sit or stand or lie with a not too bright light source in front of you. Let your eyelids close; don’t force it, gentle as you can. Now bring your focus inwards. There they are, wafting across your eyes, floaters. They are particularly noticeable when looking at a blank surface or an open monochromatic space, such as deep blue sky. They come in various shapes and sizes. Some seem to have little flagella which they use to move rapidly across your field of vision. Others appear to possess arms or legs or fins and use those various extremities to propel themselves. Some floaters have no recognizable shape, just blobs of semitransparent translucent matter visible only to you. They may look like black or gray specks, strings or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes and appear to dart away when you try to look at them directly.

Scientists tell us that most are caused by age-related changes that occur as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes becomes more liquid. As you grow older the vitreous and its millions of fine collagen fibers shrink and become shred-like. Shreds can accumulate in the vitreous. The clear vitreous gel which completely fills the back of the eye earlier in life decreases in size and no longer can fill this space and it pulls away from the retina. It is often the areas of previous attachment to the retina which are seen as floaters as they now float freely in the vitreous gel. They are harmless, just a fact of life, remarked upon from time to time but rarely given serious consideration.

There are rumors however of other types of floater that are much less benign. They are living microscopic beings that make their home in your ocular fluid. In the few cryptic tales I could find that make mention of them they even have a name, razorocs. Descriptions of them vary but in general they are said to have an eel like body which they undulate wildly to move rapidly around the eye. Their mouths are rounded with long, razor sharp fangs. It is rumored that under the right conditions the razorocs will use their fangs to attack the host, slowly ripping through the soft flesh of the eye, consuming it for food. The end result of most razoroc attacks is blindness however in some extreme cases insanity and death are said to have occurred. In those instances the razorocs passed from the back of the eye through the optic nerve into the brain where they continued to multiply and feed.

I cannot speak to the veracity of those reports. If such creatures did exist they would certainly have been classified and categorized by now. It seems impossible that the fields of ophthalmology and microbiology of the eye would not have discovered such potentially horrifying and deadly creatures after so many years of research and study. Yet now whenever I find myself observing the floaters in my eyes I can’t help but feel a twinge of fear. It’s ridiculous I know.

Is that a drop of blood on my cheek? Where did that come from?

Written by

Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store