A tourist to the Red Sea left with an unwanted souvenir: a pair of fish jaws embedded in his eyelid, according to a new report of the case.
The 52-year-old man went swimming at a beach on the Red Sea, an inlet of the Indian Ocean that sits between Africa and Asia. But during his swim, he collided with a school of fish.
Later, the man developed a swollen and droopy eyelid that didn't go away even a month later, according to the report.
The man went to the doctor, and an imaging test showed that he had an area of inflammation called a granuloma in his eyelid. Doctors performed surgery to remove the granuloma, but during the operation, they also removed "two transparent tubular structures," from the man's eyelid, the report said. [12 Amazing Images in Medicine]
Dr. Wolf A. Lagrèze, of the Department of Ophthalmology at Albert Ludwigs University Freiburg in Germany, who treated the patient, said he was "absolutely" surprised to find these foreign structures in the man's eye. Lagrèze guessed that the structures belonged to a fish, because the patient had said that he collided with an animal in the water.
A biologist at the Thünen Institute of Sea Fisheries in Hamburg helped identify the structures as the jawbones of a halfbeak, a type of fish that is common in shallow and coastal waters.
The doctors think that the fish jaws caused the man's eyelid to droop because "the beaks of the fish immobilized the muscles that move the eyelid and the eye ball upward," Lagrèze told Live Science.
Within three months of the surgery, the man completely recovered and was able to move his eye and eyelid normally, said the report, which is published today (Sept. 16) in the New England Journal of Medicine.