Flies in his eyes

disease of the eye
‘Palpebrae’ = eyelids

Here’s a tale from an edition of The Lancet published in 1843 which caused me to squirm more than once. And may cause you to check there are no houseflies in your bedroom before you turn the light off at night.

A case is recorded in the “Med. Zeitung”, in which a serious inflammation of the membrana conjunctiva resulted from a deposition of the eggs and development of the larvae of the common house-fly within the eyelids.

Oh good grief.

eyeThe subject was a child, three years of age, who had felt much pain in the left eye for a lapse of eight-and-forty hours, at the end of which time the upper eyelid was found so much inflamed as to cover nearly the whole of the lower; and on everting it, a layer of worms was found to cover the whole surface of the eye, and to form a dense mass in the internal angle of the eyelids, and in the lachrymal fossa.

‘A layer of worms’. Shudder.

By the help of a pair of tweezers, twenty of these interlopers were extracted, each being about half an inch (twelve millimetres) in length.

I’m not familiar with the life-cycle of domestic flies, but I’m guessing that if they were that size they must have been there for more than a few hours.

houseflyThe cornea had been rendered opaque, and of a greenish-blue tint. The conjunctiva of the opposite side was also inflamed and ulcerated; no larvae were discovered upon its surface, but one was met with deeply imbedded in the lachrymal fossa, and extracted piecemeal with difficulty.

‘Extracted piecemeal with difficulty’ makes this sound a fairly unenjoyable experience for the poor child.

It is supposed that a fly, attracted by a slight ulceration at the internal angle of the left eye, must, while the child slept, have deposited its eggs there, which, by subsequent rubbing on the part of the patient, had been forced under the eyelids. The right eye was soon restored to health, but the left remained much longer affected, and some opaque spots in the cornea persisted for a considerable period afterwards. 

Glad you read that? Me too.

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