While worms in the eye sound like something directly out of a horror film, for one U.S. woman it was a reality. The more she dug, the more worms she found.

While Abby Beckley is not what you would call squeamish, worms in the eye is enough to bring anyone to their knees. Beckley is a 26-year-old woman that noticed a slight irritation in her eye not too long ago. To begin with, she didn’t think much of it as time passed it only got worse. For anyone wondering this was only her left eye.

While she thought one day that an eyelash was bugging her and causing the irritation she quickly found that it was not an eyelash at all. She pulled a small worm from her eye. This worm was about half an inch long and just as frightening as you would imagine.

Beckley told IFLScience as follows:

“I just pulled my hand back and stared at it in shock and was like, ‘oh my god that’s a worm!”

“I was concerned that it would affect my vision, paralyze my face, or get into my brain somehow,”

Beckley assumed there had to be someone else who had been through this and decided to see a professional. Beckley saw an optometrist and learned that there actually was no one else with this issue. The optometrist pulled about three more worms from her eye and sent them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That being said, she ended up pulling about 14 more from her eye herself.

Adult worm after it was removed from Beckley’s eye. CDC


This was something that had never happened before and so it was recorded and monitored. Several experts observed the specimen sent in and medical parasitologist Richard Bradbury was able to identify the species as the Thelazia Gulosa or the cattle eyeworm. It was described before in a 1928 journal.

Cases of a similar eyeworm have been reported before but only in about 10 cases. You see, for the most part, it is only found in children and elderly as they are not able to keep flies out of their eyes as well as other people. Yes, flies cause these worms to grow in our eyes. Basically what happens is that the flies ingest the worm larvae and land on the eye, they feed on the tears or juices in general and deposit the larvae. From there the larvae grow into adulthood.

While Beckley did not suffer any longterm symptoms her story is one that makes my stomach churn. If you ever notice tiny worms in your eyes at least you know it isn’t going to kill you. Get to a doctor and have them taken care of.

The abstract of the research published on this case goes as follows:

“We report a case of thelaziasis in a 26-year-old female, acquired in Oregon. A total of 14 worms were removed from the patient’s left eye and were morphologically identified as being Thelazia gulosa. Until now, only two species of Thelazia have been implicated in causing human disease, Thelazia callipaeda in Asia and Europe and occasional reports of Thelazia californiensis from the United States of America. Here, we describe a third, previously unreported parasite of humans, T. gulosa (the cattle eyeworm) as an agent of human thelaziasis and the first reported case of human thelaziasis in North America in over two decades.”

(Image Via: CDC)

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