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Woman's "Herpes Infection" Actually Turned Out To Be Something Quite Different


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

All in all, glitter sucks. iidea studio/Shutterstock

Glitter truly is the work of the devil. Despite its cheery intentions, few people actually enjoy opening a Christmas card full of glitter, unless you're really into sweeping up and vacuuming. There's also another reason you should dislike this sparkly stuff, on top of it being a severe annoyance.

A new medical report in the BMJ Case Reports documents the story of a 49-year-old woman who ended up nearly blinded and in hospital due to a speck of the shiny stuff from a Christmas card.


The woman headed to Singleton Hospital in the UK after suffering from a painful red eye and swelling on her eyelid. A visual acuity test by the ophthalmologist showed that her vision was also reduced in her right eye. Further examination also revealed a rather nasty lesion in her cornea.

Presented with these symptoms, doctors suspected that the herpes simplex virus was the culprit. This widespread virus can lead to an infection known as herpetic simplex keratitis that, although often a mild ailment, leads to over 40,000 cases of visual impairment or blindness each year.

However, when doctors further examined the lesion under a powerful light microscope, they saw a small surface shine back at them (as you can see below). This sparked her memory and she recalled opening up a Christmas card covered in glitter. Somehow this speck of glitter must have flicked up into her cornea and triggered an infection.

After removing the foreign body and receiving a topical antibiotic treatment, the woman made a full recovery.

A pseudodendritic lesion on the 49-year-old woman's cornea. Dr Damien Chia Ming Yeo/BMJ Case Reports

“The lesion may have been easily misdiagnosed as a herpetic simplex infection by non-specialists for which treatment would have been topical antiviral ointment instead of removal and antibiotics,” the study notes. “It is therefore important to always remember to inquire specifically about possible trauma (however unlikely) in any lesions of the eye.”

As if the risk of blindness wasn't enough to hate this stuff, some environmental scientists are suggesting that glitter is dangerous for the environment. Much like their less glamorous cousin, microplastics, these non-biodegradable flecks can easily drift into the ocean and wind up in the digestive systems of mammals, fish, and crustaceans all over the world.

“I think all glitter should be banned because it’s microplastic,” Dr Trisia Farrelly, an environmental anthropologist at Massey University, recently argued.

All in all, glitter sucks.


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