Strange But True: Hair Grows From This Man’s Eye

Strange But True: Hair Grows From This Man’s Eye

A case report in this month’s New England Journal of Medicine documents the strange case of a 19 year-old man in Iran who presented to his local eye clinic complaining of a mass on his right eye that had been present since birth.  This lesion gradually enlarged through the years and began to cause symptoms of irritation and blurred vision.  Oh, and it also had hair growing out of it.

Lumps, bumps, lesions, and even tumors of the eye and its surrounding tissues are not uncommon.  Some of the most common are chalazia (commonly referred to as styes) but there are plenty of other things we frequently see in the clinic.  Some of the same types of skin “tags” or even skin cancers can just as easily arise from the skin around the eye as they can elsewhere in the body.  (Disclaimer:  Any unusual growth of the eye or tissues around the eye should be evaluated by your eye care professional.)

This Iranian man’s lesion was something quite different, however.  He had something called a limbal dermoid–a congenital, benign tumor that contains cell types of various tissues.  These tissues may include cartilage, lacrimal (tear gland) tissue, sweat glands, and yes–hair.  The word dermoid may sound familiar.  These types of growths can occur elsewhere in the body.  A more common example is in the ovary, where benign tumors can have bizarre contents such as hair and even teeth.  In the case of this patient from Iran, his dermoid occurred at the limbus, which is the name for the area on the eye where the cornea meets the sclera, or “white” of the eye.

Surgeons there successfully excised the growth, freeing their patient from the discomfort and blurred vision he had been experiencing.  For the patient, excision of the lesion was understandably for cosmetic reasons.  So next time you are frustrated by an eyelash that gets in your eye…relax.  It could be worse.