“Let concealment, like a worm in the bud, feed on her damask cheek”, so says Viola in Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. That’s all very well, but what about a worm in the eye? You think I’m joking, you think that this is the beginning of some kind of horror fiction? Well, I can assure you, I’m not and this is no fiction. Don’t take my word for it. Just ask 75-year-old P K Krishnamurthy, an Indian man who had a five-inch live worm removed from his eye last week.
This particular medical horror story comes from Mumbai in India. Two weeks ago Mr Krishnamurthy started to feel discomfort in his left eye, including uncontrolled twitching. On his initial visit to the doctor he was given medication to clear up what was thought to be a straightforward eye condition. When it failed to work he was seen by specialists at Mumbai’s Fortis Hospital.
After detailed examination they saw the worm, all five inches of it, an intestinal parasite that had somehow managed to make its way to the eye, there taking up residence in the conjunctiva. The doctors were stunned by the discovery, one saying “We haven’t come across such long worms travelling so far”.
I dare say they were not nearly as stunned as poor old P K Krishnamurthy, who was told the reason for the twitching and advised that an immediate removal of the dancing worm was essential. It was, on Wednesday, a local procedure carried out in front of the patient’s horrified wife.
Dr Seetharaman, the hospital’s eye surgeon, who removed the worm using a pair of forceps, said that that the pensioner was lucky to have such a rare intruder discovered just in time – “If it had not been removed it could have entered the patient's brain and caused major neurological problems.” In the least worst scenario, if such a thing is possible, it could simply have died where it was, causing a toxic reaction that might have required the removal of the whole eye.
Mr Krishnamurthy’s wife, Saraswati, said that the sight of a live worm being pulled from her husband’s eye left her horrified – “It just kept moving and jumping; it was scary for a bit.” Scary is not the word!
The unidentified worm has now been sent a microbiology lab for further tests. There are two possible suspects, the toxocara worm, also known as the dog round worm, and the African eye worm. The report on this story in the Mumbai Mirror concludes with some sensible advice: wash your hands before eating, eat only properly cooked food, drink boiled water…and take de-worming medicine every six months. They should have added that it’s wise to keep your eye on your eye.