Ouch! Tarantula Attacks Owner

Indeed, Dr. Roberto Pineda, director of refractive surgery at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, says some of those who are most at risk are pet store employees.

"Usually, they're very similar to this story where they've seen a tarantula, and were cleaning a cage and felt something," said Pineda, who has treated just two incidents in the last 18 years.

In both cases, the person didn't know the tarantula could spray barbed hairs, in both incidents the person didn't feel symptoms for a week and in both incidents the person didn't realize the spider was to blame for their red eyes.

Tarantula's Barbed Hairs Could Cause Vision Loss

"What's nice for us as ophthalmologists is that we can see these fine filaments in the cornea, so if you've seen this before, or heard of it, you can treat it," said Pineda. "But most eye care specialists aren't aware of this condition."

His colleague at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary agreed.

"If you've picked five or six ophthalmologists off the street and asked them if you've ever seen a problem with a tarantula, they'd say 'no,'" said Dr. Ankoor Shah, director of the eye trauma service at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Without treatment from experts like Shah, Pineda or Carrim, victims of a tarantula's barbed hair could eventually face severe scarring and vision loss.

Shah said hairs stuck in the outer part of the eye can cause scarring to the cornea. If the hairs migrate into the area between the cornea and the iris (the colored part of the eye) Shah said the inflammatory reaction can cause pain, light sensitivity and can even create enough pressure in the eye to cause damage to the optic nerve. If left untreated, barbs in that area of the eye could cause scarring and cataracts.

Shah said the case of the 29-year-old British man was particularly severe.

"Somehow, one of these hairs got all the way to the back of the eye... and that can cause problems with the retina."

Despite the young man's brush with danger, Carrim said he didn't seem too angry with the tarantula.

"Even after he realized it was the tarantula who had done this, he was still keen to hang on to it," said Carrim.

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