If you’re eating, we suggest you stop. As if the word “parasites” isn’t enough to make your stomach churn, we’re about to discuss eye parasites. Yes, that’s a thing. A very real, belly-turning thing. As you’ll soon find out, these parasites don’t necessarily start in your eyeball, which honestly, somehow makes the whole notion more disturbing. In some instances, they slowly crawl their way up into it from others parts of your body. Keep reading for 5 of the freakiest eye parasites we hope you never, ever run into.
- Baylisascaris procyonis
Quite the mouthful, this parasite is commonly referred to as the raccoon roundworm. That’s because it’s primary host is, you guessed it, a raccoon. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 90% of juvenile and 70% of adult raccoons carry this virus. So how does it come in contact with humans? While it’s rare, it’s often through feces left in soil.
Once this parasite finds its way into a host, it migrates its way towards the brain after hatching in the gut. This is how it can end up in the eyeball. It can move fairly quickly, too — it can take as little as three days to make this move up into the eyeball or brain, where it will begin eating away at the tissue. In the eyeball specifically, it will begin to eat away at the retina and optic nerve, causing blindness. A baylisascaris procyonis prognosis is devastating, and can often lead to death.
- Larvae — fly, gnat, maggot
Not nearly as exotic or strange as the raccoon roundworm, most of us have had plenty of run-ins with flies, gnats and maggots. Generally benign, they’re mostly just an annoyance. But for a few unlucky folks, they’ve caused a lot of trouble. While it’s a fairly uncommon occurrence, they can lay eggs in the eyeball. If the eggs stay around long enough to hatch — well, you’ve now got a larva…in your eyeball. It will begin eating the surrounding eyeball tissue for nutrients. The best way to treat it is simply to remove it via medical procedure.
- Loa loa worm
The loa loa worm is also known as the eye worm. It hails from India and Africa. Once they enter a host, through a cut for instance, they feast on the underlying tissue. It travels throughout the body, underneath the skin. As it moves, it cause redness and inflammation. Once in the eyeball, it will cause swelling. Treatment for the loa loa worm can include medication, prescribed by a doctor, or surgical removal — even from within the eyeball.
This term covers a range of roundworms, including the dog roundworm, cat roundworm, and fox roundworm. Contamination usually occurs from unknowingly ingesting the parasite. This can happen from drinking contaminated water or eating unwashed vegetables or infected meats that haven’t been fully cooked.
If even a single larva makes its way into the eyeball, it can begin to cause serious damage. Symptoms include redness, a white pupil, inflammation, and a fixed pupil. As it progresses, vision will be lost. This can take days or weeks to occur. The damage is usually permanent and can lead to total blindness.
Another tough one to pronounce, this parasite is also called African river blindness. While you may not have ever heard of this parasitic worm, it’s actually the second leading cause of blindness, due to infection. It’s usually found in sub-Sahara Africa, though cases have also occurred in Central and South America. It spreads through the bites of black flies, which live near rivers. It takes several bites for infection to occur. Treatment typically is just a prescription medication which stops the worm from reproducing, eventually causing it to die off.
The majority of these parasites may enter the system unknowingly. But as always, if you find yourself experiencing strange or unusual symptoms related to your eye health or vision, make a trip to your eye doctor as early as possible!