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May 20, 2019

Doctors finally figured out why woman’s face was moving

June 24, 2018
A parasite above the unidentified woman’s left eye is seen in a selfie that was used to document the movements of the parasite. (New England Journal of Medicine)

A woman left baffled by moving, itchy bumps on her face received a terrifying diagnosis: They were being caused by worms.

The unidentified woman first noticed a bump below her left eye following a trip to a rural area outside of Moscow, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. A few days later it moved on its own, settling just above her eyelid.

“The nodules would occasionally cause a localized itching or burning sensation,” doctors wrote, “but otherwise she had no other symptoms.”

The parasite after it was extracted.
The parasite after it was extracted. (New England Journal of Medicine)

The 32-year-old documented her mysterious ailment with selfies for 10 days — at that point it seemed to disappear, but it returned and prompted her lip to more than double in size.

Doctors in the end used forceps to remove the long parasitic worm from her face and identified it as Dirofilaria repens.

“The parasite can appear and disappear in a few minutes,” Dr. Vladimir Kartahsev, a professor at Rostove State Medical University who saw the patient, told CNN. “Doctors who are not familiar with the disease don’t believe… the patients. That’s why I asked the patient to take selfies.

The doctor said he’s seen “at least 10 patients with same presentation before,” but the parasite and its ability to move about can be “extremely confusing.”

The worms, typically found in dogs and other carnivores, make their way into the body as larva — typically via a mosquito bite, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient noted she was “frequently bitten” by the blood-sucking pests during her Russia excursion.

The parasite, because it does not reproduce, does not usually cause disease in its human host and “surgical excision of the worm is curative.”

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