CNN reports Abby Beckley of Grants Pass suffered eye irritation in August of 2016 when she was 26-years-old. She thought it was an eyelash, so she removed the object causing the irritation and discovered a wiggling half-inch long worm. Over a three-week period, Beckley would remove 13 more worms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Beckley’s case is rare for humans. However, veterinary infections are common. Most cases of worms infecting a person’s eyes, also called thelaziasis, occur in Europe and Asia where people live in close proximity to animals and poor living standards.
According to the CDC, Beckley is an avid outdoorswoman who practiced horsemanship in Gold Beach in the weeks leading up to infection.
Following an investigation, the CDC determined the worms that infected Beckley were Thelazia gulosa, a type of nematode worm. They live in face flies, also known as autumn house flies, until they can infect another organism.
It was determined Beckley’s exposure likely occurred when she was riding horses and fishing in the summer months, exposing her to flies that she may have delayed brushing from her face.
The CDC said when a person gets infected with an eye worm, they might experience eye inflammations, the sensation of a foreign object in the eye, swelling of the eye, and the excessive flow of tears.
It is possible for the worms to migrate through the eye, causing scarring, opacity and blindness. Symptoms usually resolve after the parasites are removed.
Beckley’s is the first time Thelazia gulosa has been recorded as infecting a human host, though there are different types of similar worms that have infected people in other parts of the world.