97th DOG Annual Meeting 1999



L. Frisch, I. Eggers1, P. J├Ąger2

Case report: A 18-year old woman presented in our out-patient clinic complaining of glare, pain and redness in her right eye. Three weeks earlier she had caressed a pet tarantula (Phrixotrichus scrofa = P. roseus). Ophthalmoscopy revealed multiple tiny hairs in all layers of the cornea and subepithelial opacities. There were multiple foreign body granulomas attached to the corneal endothelium. The superficial foreign bodies could be removed. Topical steroids were applied. Half a year later the patient presented again revealing signs and symptoms of inflammation of the anterior chamber and iritis, which again responded to topical sreroids.

Etiology: Beside their poisonous glands tarantulas possess an effective defense mechanism against enemies: when threatened the animals rub their hind legs over the abdomen releasing up to 100.000 fine hairs. These barbed hairs are capable of penetrating the dermis, the cornea and the sclera. This leads to irritation or even posterior uveitis and endophthalmitis. Removal of the microscopic foreign bodies is only possible in the anterior layers of the cornea.

Conclusion: Ophthalmia nodosa is a rare finding in middle Europe and is predominantly caused by caterpillar hairs. Over the past years tarantulas are being held as cheap pets. This will most likely lead to an increase of this disease.

(There is a short video insert showing a tarantula rubbing its abdomen)

University Eye Hospital Mainz,
1University Eye Hospital Heidelberg,
2Zoologic Institute University Mainz