Mumbai, Jun 29: For two weeks, Mulund resident P K Krishnamurthy, 75, felt his right eye twitching and even hurting at times. On Wednesday, doctors pulled out a 15-cm live worm from his eye, in one of the city's rarest medical instances, reports Mumbai Mirror.
While we have all dealt with worms - both within our bodies and outside - Krishnamurthy's case is a medical nightmare come true.
The parasite - which had taken residence under conjunctiva (the transparent layer that covers the front of the eye) - had travelled all the way from Krishnamurthy's intestine, through the blood stream, to reach the eye.
Its journey stunned doctors, who said that they had not heard of a precedent. “We haven't come across such long worms travelling so far,” said eye surgeon Dr V Seetharaman, who operated upon Krishnamurthy at Fortis Hospital, Mulund.
Doctors at JJ Hospital, one of the city's largest medical facilities, said that they had encountered only one such instance in the past 20 years, but the crawly culprit in the case was only 2 to 3 cm long.
Krishnamurthy started feeling irritation in his left eye two weeks ago. He consulted an ophthalmologist, who prescribed him eye drops. The twitching and pain, however, didn't subside.
On Wednesday morning, the 75-year-old consulted Dr Seetharaman. “I was shocked when the doctor told me that there was a live worm in my left eye and that I needed to undergo a surgery,” Krishnamurthy told Mumbai Mirror just hours after the surgery.
Dr Seetharaman said that the worm was not only alive, but moving, and was visible by naked eye. "It was coiled up underneath the conjunctiva, below the superficial layer of the eye," he said. "There have been cases, though very rare, of intestinal worms travelling to the eye. But never a worm as long as this one."
Dr Seetharaman made a small opening in Krishnamurthy's conjunctiva, and removed the 15-cm worm using a pair of forceps. The tricky procedure, which was video-recorded, lasted 15 to 20 minutes.
"The worm could have travelled deeper into the eye or gone to the brain through the optic nerves, which could have been fatal," the eye surgeon said, adding that the case was his first in his 30-year practice.
Krishnamurthy's wife, Saraswati, who witnessed the surgery, said that the sight of live worm being pulled out from her husband's eye left her horrified. "It just kept moving and jumping; it was scary for a bit."
Saraswati initially thought that her husband's passion for gardening had landed him in trouble. "He does gardening for most part of the day, so I thought that some worm from a plant may have entered his eye. Doctors explained me that it had travelled from his intestine," she said.
Dr Ragini Parekh, an eye surgeon at JJ that sees 300 eye patients in a day, said that intestinal worms that entered the eye were usually small. "In my 20-year practice, this is the first time I have heard about a nearly 15-cm-long worm surgically removed from an eye," said Parekh, who heads the ophthalmology department.
She added that had the worm not been removed, it could have died in Krishnamurthy's eye and caused a toxic reaction. "The patient could even lose his/her eye in such cases," she said.
While the pathology report in P K Krishnamurthy's case is still awaited, doctors have listed the possible suspects:
Toxocara worm - Also known as dog round worm, it is transmitted through a parasite of dogs and is found in the intestine.
African eye worm - Also known as Loa Loa filariasis, it can be contracted by humans through a bite of deer fly or mango fly. Doctors say flies that carry the vector Loa Loa are common in African rain forests.
For Keeping worms away -Wash hands before eating, eat only properly cooked food, Drink boiled water, Take a 'de-worming' medicine once in six months, or as prescribed by your doctor
The risks - Worms in the intestine eat up all the body's nutrition. If they travel to the eye or the brain, they may prove fatal for the patient. Doctors say symptoms such as stomachache, irritable bowels and constipation should not be ignored.