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This eye worm, once only found in livestock, is cozying up to humans

Posted on Tuesday, 13th February 2018 @ 05:43 PM by Text Size A | A | A

 

Did you know you can get worms in your eyes? According to National Geographic, it’s a thing.

Back in 2016, 26-year-old Abby Beckley ended up with a bunch of the tiny, translucent critters living in and around the delicate flesh of the inside of her eyelids. Beckley described the sensation of the eye worms nesting in her as being similar to having an eyelash poking her. After much prodding and poking, Beckley managed to extract a worm from her eyelid… and then another. In total, she wound up pulling five worms out of herself before deciding that maybe checking in with a doctor might be a good idea. Beckley was in Alaska at the time that she discovered the infestation. After an initial consultation with the doctors there, she decided to head to Portland to hook up with an ophthalmologist who was able to snag yet another worm from her and send it to the CDC for analysis.

It turns out that the worms living in Beckley’s head are called Thelazia gulosa – a parasite normally found in the eyes of livestock. The parasites are spread to a host when a face fly lands on an eyeball, like Beckley’s, and begins drinking the sweet, delicious tears that keep it lubricated. The parasites, which gestate in the digestive tracts of the face fly, get passed on to the owner of said eye, where they mature until, finally, BOOM: eye worms. 

By the time Beckley was declared free of the parasite, she’d pulled 14 of the little buggers out of her eyelids.

The good news is that this sort of infestation in humans is exceptionally rare, largely because of the the fact that we’re predisposed to shooing flies away before they have a chance to get into our eyes. Hopefully, knowing this will be comfort enough the next time you feel something’s in your eye.

Image Courtesy of CDC, via National Geographic

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