If you think pinkeye is bad, wait until you hear about what happened to Abby Beckley.
After dealing with irritation from what she thought was a stray eyelash for about a week, Abby took a closer look at her eye and noticed a translucent worm wiggling around in there, The Washington Post reports.
“I pulled that worm out and I just was shocked. I was absolutely shocked,” she said. “I stared at it and it was alive.” It lived for about five seconds, she told The Oregonian, and then it died. “I was just like, what the hell did I just see,” she said.
Abby said at first she thought the worm had fallen into her eye from salmon she was fishing (did you know salmon can contain tapeworms?), but, after she pulled out more worms, she saw a doctor. “There were several doctors examining my eye, and at first, they were a bit skeptical, because who comes in and claims they have a worm in their eye?” Abby told CNN. “I am thinking to myself, ‘Worms, please show up,’ because sometimes they would go behind my eye and under the eyelid, and you couldn’t see or feel them anymore.”
But after a half hour, they appeared. “I felt one squiggle across my eye, and I told the doctors, ‘You need to look right now!'” she said. “I’ll never forget the expression on their faces as they saw it move across my eye.”
She ended up being referred to an infectious disease specialist who contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC eventually figured out that the worms were Thelazia gulosa, a parasite that’s found on cow eyeballs. (Abby had lived on a ranch earlier that summer and the worms may have gotten into her eye from a face fly.)
Of course, you’d assume that once doctors figured out what the hell was going on, they could blast those worms into oblivion, but it didn’t work that way. According to The Oregonian, killing the worms wouldn’t help because they’d still be in Abby’s eye, where they could cause an infection. So, she had to keep taking them out. Fourteen worms were removed in total.
Naturally, Abby’s entire WTF-worthy story was written up in a case report published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene this week.
Clearly, this is freaky, but Sajeev Kathuria, MD, FACS, an ophthalmologist and oculofacial plastic surgeon with Katzen Eye Group, tells WomensHealthMag.com that you should be “not at all concerned” about getting worms in your eyes in the future. “This is very, very rare,” he says.
However, if you do happen to find yourself on a farm, or walking through a cow pasture, it’s a good idea to wear sunglasses or some other form of eye protection, he says. It’s also important to have good hygiene, he says—namely, don’t rub your eyes with your hands or stick your fingers in your eyes to try to get something out of them, especially if you haven’t washed them first.
Abby says she was (understandably) really freaked out at first, and didn’t know if she would lose her vision or die from the parasites. While what happened to her is super rare, she wanted to speak out in case someone else goes through the same thing. “If this happens to anyone else, I just want them to know that I’m okay,” she said.
The article “This Woman Thought A Stray Eyelash Was Stuck In Her Eye—But It Was Really 14 Worms” originally appeared on WomensHealthMag.com