LEEDS, England, January 2010 — A British man went to the hospital for an irritated eye that turned out to be caused by his pet tarantula. The incident was reported in The Lancet by colleagues at St. James’s University Hospital in Leeds, England.
For three weeks prior to going to the hospital, his eye was red, watery and light-sensitive. When conjunctivitis treatment did not clear his symptoms, doctors examined his cornea with high-magnification lenses. To their surprise, there were hair-like projections in his cornea.
After finding the hairs, the patient recalled that his pet Chilean Rose tarantula had released a “mist of hairs” in his eyes and face when he was cleaning the tank weeks before. Upon diagnosis, the doctors treated the eye with topical steroids because the hairs were too small to be removed.
The doctors explained in the article that Chilean Rose tarantulas dislodge hairs into the air as a defense mechanism. Although incidents are rare, doctors recommended that tarantula owners wear protective eyewear when handling their pets. In addition, they emphasized the importance of doctor and patient collaboration, which was key to the man’s diagnosis.