Comm Eye Health Vol. 10 No. 21 1997 pp 16. Published online 01 March 1997.

Letter. Tarantula hair ophthalmia nodosa

Dr Andrew Blaikie

Department of Ophthalmology, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee DD1 9SY, Scotland, UK

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Dear Sir

I read with interest the recent letters describing prickly pear and caterpillar hair induced eye disease.

In the East of Scotland we have recently seen three cases of ophthalmia nodosa secondary to tarantula hairs. All three cases presented with an itchy kerato-conjunctivitis with multiple fine hairs embedded in the cornea. Two patients, exposed to hairs from a Chilean Rose tarantula, developed a pan-uveitis with reduced visual acuity and raised intraocular pressure. The hairs appear to have relentlessly migrated through the media of the eye.

Scanning Electron Microscope studies revealed a remarkable morphological similarity between Chilean Rose tarantula hairs and caterpillar hairs of the Lymantriidae species. This type of caterpillar is known to cause severe ocular inflammation similar to the clinical course seen in two of our patients.

Our experience would suggest that the morphology of the hairs dictates the clinical outcome and that removal of the foreign body or alteration of its morphology to halt migration is an essential part of early management.