Laura Ponce, a nursery school teacher in Lins, Brazil, suffers from a strange condition that causes her to cry ‘crystal’ tears. The white plaques start off as soft blobs inside her eyes, but they harden when she blinks in an attempt to expel them, finally emerging as solid white crystals.
This happens to her for weeks at a time, with a new plaque forming as soon as she expels another. It gets so bad at times that she has to take time off work, to remove as many as 30 plaque membranes from her eye in a day. “A clot starts to swell then I have to open my eye to take out the membrane,” she explained. “When it dries it hardens, it gets really hard, it hurts a lot.”
Ponce first noticed the issue when she was only 15 years old – her eye had started to fill with an unknown white substance. She immediately called her mother, Marissa, who was horrified by the problem. They tried removing the hard plaques from her swollen eye socket, but it wouldn’t stop forming. “We took it out and I was scared,” Marissa recalled. “We ran to the ER and the doctor on duty also got scared. The doctor was mystified.”
Ponce, now 35, has never been able to find a cure. She has experienced an episode every few months since then, but no one has been able to explain the mysterious ailment. “The whole family was shaken,” Marissa said. “We went chasing doctor after doctor.”
“I’m a nursery school teacher, I get angry about not being able to work,” Ponce said. “Two years ago it was infected for six months and I was taking 30 membranes out of my eye each day.”
Ponce is currently seeing Dr. Raul Goncalves, an ophthalmologist at Hospital de Olhos de Bauru, Brazil. According to him, there is no case like hers in medical literature, but he’s trying his best to find an explanation. “I have been an ophthalmologist for 25 years and I have never seen anything like it,” he said. “For these plaques to form so fast there could be only one explanation, it must be chemical.”
“Every time you blink, you’re lubricating your eye, and tears are made of three layers – a water layer, a mucin layer, and a fat layer,” he explained. “Each cell separately creates a product and when you blink you mix all this like a dough.” Dr. Raul’s guess is that the protein content in Ponce’s tears aren’t protecting the eye from bacteria. So, her eyes are forced to produce a second line of defence.
“The cornea jumps into action, and in Miss Ponce’s case the cornea’s surface can secrete keratin. This keratin together with other components causes the tear crystallization.” To counter the problem, Dr. Raul has prescribed silver nitrate eye drops, which seem to have provided some relief. Ponce is now experiencing fewer infections and is able to go back to work. But she can’t wait for the day when she’ll finally be rid of the condition.
“My expectation are for my eyes to be cured and for everything to be fine,” she said.
Laura Ponce will be featured on the new series of Body Bizarre, on TLC.
Photos: Barcroft Media/Discovery Productions
via Daily Mail