Here are some of the most shocking health stories of 2018.
Health stories are important. Some give us hope, like a person who has overcome a serious illness or life challenge. Others we can learn from — like cautionary tales about what not to do or things we should avoid if we want to stay healthy.
No matter what type of story it is, a health journey is highly personal, and it takes a brave person to share the details with the world. We are deeply grateful to all the people who shared their health experiences with us (or gave health practitioners permission to write about it in medical journals) this year so that we can learn a little more about the things that can affect the human body.
1. This woman who went temporarily blind after getting poorly done eyelash extensions.
Megan Rixson, a 20-year-old woman from the UK, knew something was wrong when her eyes started burning while getting eyelash extensions. It turns out she may have been given the wrong kind of glue during the process. She lost her vision for two scary hours.
Dr. Samuel D. Pierce, an optometrist and the president of the American Optometric Association, told BuzzFeed News that there a quite a few things that can go wrong while you are getting extensions, including allergic reactions. He recommended seeking help if you have any eye redness or discomfort after getting your eyelashes done.
2. This young man who got a gnarly hookworm infection while on a school trip.
A perfectly pleasant trip to a beach in Florida turned into a horror show for Michael Dumas, a teen from Tennessee. He was on a trip with his church group when they buried him in the sand.
Soon after, his body broke out in strange red bumps, and doctors eventually figured out he had hookworm.
Want to know more about this parasite? The CDC has details on what hookworm is, how it spreads, and how to avoid it.
3. This woman who had a contact lens in her eye for nearly 30 years.
Strange but true! Doctors fished an eye contact out of a 42-year-old woman's eye. The lens had been there for 28 long years. She had no idea it was there, but she went to doctors after experiencing swelling, drooping, and a strange pea-sized lump.
A MRI scan revealed what seemed to be a cyst. The cyst was removed, and inside was a single rigid gas permeable lens, an older type of contact she hadn't worn in decades.
4. This woman whose toenails fell off after a fish pedicure.
So this one is a little controversial. As reported in the journal JAMA Dermatology, a woman's toenails fell off after getting one of those trendy fish pedicures where little fish bite off your dead skin.
The article's author attributes the toenail loss to the pedicure, but another doctor we interviewed wasn't so sure. Dr. Chris Adigun is a North Carolina–based nail specialist and board-certified dermatologist who hadn't treated the patient, but suspected the condition might be due to ill-fitting shoes or another cause. Either way, this case makes the list.
5. This woman whose "weight gain" turned out to be due to a 50-pound ovarian cyst.
Kayla Rahn, from Montgomery, Alabama, was initially just told to shed some pounds when she mysteriously started to gain weight and have abdominal pain and shortness of breath. Well, it turns out a massive cyst was growing on her ovary. Doctors at Jackson Hospital were able to successfully remove it.
6. This woman had a cockroach crawl in her ear. It was killed, but then it got stuck there for nine whole days.
This is a story that just gets worse and worse. It started when Katie Holley, from Melbourne, Florida, felt something odd and cold in her ear. She put a cotton swab in and pulled out legs, which was enough to cause the first meltdown. Worst of all, she could feel and hear the bug moving around.
A doctor removed most of it (she had to feel it thrash around while it was killed) but it wasn't until nine (!) days later that they realized the bug's head was still in there. Thankfully, it's all gone now.
7. This woman who got a terrible infection after getting her eyebrows microbladed.
Microblading is a hugely popular way to fill in your eyebrows, but if it's not done properly, there's a risk of infection. That's what happened to a Michigan woman who ended up in the hospital for three days after getting her brows done. You can read here about how to avoid your own microblading disaster.
8. This man who thought he had a "beer belly" (even though he didn't drink beer) but it turned out to be a massive tumor.
Hector Hernandez, from Downey, California, used to get teased by his friends for having a beer belly, even though he didn't drink beer. That changed when the growth was found to be due to a rare and cancerous tumor. Doctors were able to remove the 77-pound growth but also had to take out a kidney. Hernandez is now undergoing further treatment.
9. This woman who got a black, hairy tongue from antibiotic treatment.
Before you freak out, you should know that "black, hairy tongue," which, yes, is a real medical diagnosis, is totally treatable and reversible. It's also not actually hair. It's a condition known as "lingua villosa nigra," in which the tiny cylindrical structures on the surface of the tongue, known as papillae, elongate and trap bacteria and food particles on the tongue.
It happened to a 55-year-old Missouri woman after taking a specific type of antibiotic. A black, hairy tongue is a side effect of certain medications, but it can also be caused by smoking, poor oral hygiene, poor diet, chemotherapy, and some medical conditions.
10. This woman who got severe burns from a wild parsnip plant.
So here's a plant to avoid. Charlotte Murphy, a 21-year-old college student living in Vermont, brushed up against a wild parsnip plant at a highway rest area. A week later she woke up with painful blisters. Thankfully she recovered, but it's a good reminder to be careful where you step. (Here are more details on what wild parsnip looks like and how to avoid it.)
A wild parsnip is not the same as the giant hogweed, another toxic plant, which can cause burns and permanent blindness. That plant can be 7 to 14 feet tall, and it caused a teen to go to the hospital with burns after he cut down a giant hogweed while trimming bushes as part of his summer job.
11. This woman who had a worm crawling in her face.
Having a mysterious lump on your face is bad enough, but now imagine that the bump is squirming around and moving from location to location. That's what happened to a woman in Russia, who had to get the parasite, called a Dirofilaria repens, surgically removed.
This parasite doesn't normally infect humans, and it's more commonly found in dogs and cats, according to the CDC. The worm — and similar species — is spread by infected mosquitoes. Because humans are not the natural host, these worms eventually die, but they can be treated with medication or surgery. Although that specific parasite is not carried by mosquitoes in the US, it can be found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Similar parasites can be found in mosquitoes in the US.