Few things can really make 2020 worse than it already is. But a rare bee sting right to the eyeball can be one of them.
Doctors this week published an image of one such unusual ocular impaled. The image, which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, also included a brief account of the patient’s condition and recovery. The details confirm that while reading this year-long horror show sometimes feels like being repeatedly stabbed in the peepers, the real thing is actually much more unpleasant.
The patient was a 22-year-old man who showed up to a hospital’s emergency department with redness, pain and impaired vision in his left eye, who had had a bee sting about an hour earlier. Although the man had 20/20 vision in his right eye, he reported seeing only hand movements close to his face with his left eye.
On closer inspection (see here), the doctors reported seeing a diffuse blurriness in his left eye due to swelling, and — most obviously — a bee sting still sticking out of his eyeball, surrounded by some eye gunk. In particular, the tiny spear was embedded in the man’s cornea — the clear, dome-shaped outer layer of tissue at the front of the eye that helps focus light.
Corneal stings with a bee sting are rare, the doctors note. But if they do occur, there is a risk that the corneal tissue will fail and become cloudy (corneal decompensation). There is also the possibility of secondary glaucoma, in which the pressure in the eye increases and causes damage to the optic nerve and loss of vision.
The doctors gave the man some antibiotic eye drops and a local anesthetic before removing the stinger. They then thoroughly cleaned the puncture wound and closed it with corneal sutures. Finally, they gave the man two weeks’ worth of prescriptions for glucocorticoids, antibiotics and eye medications that together tried to prevent inflammation, pain and secondary infection.
With a relatively happy ending, a three-month follow-up visit revealed that the man’s eye largely recovered. The corneal swelling had completely disappeared and the man’s vision in his left eye was 20/40.