Glochids from prickly pear cacti

Anyone have experience removing Glochidia either surgically or some other method?

My friend had fallen in some prickly pears years ago and now the glochidias are surfacing. She says it feels like having fiberglass in her fingers and she is consumed with pulling them out with tweezers.

About 3 months ago she went to a dermatologist and was put on Lamisil pills and cream which did help but she had to stop the pills because they are not liver friendly, so now she’s back to tweezering and is desperate to find medical attention for this however all doctors in this area say there is nothing that can be done.

Surly folks that live in the dessert areas know of this and could possibly share some advice.

Much appreciated

I’ll take Ironic OP/Username combos for $200, Alex.

Tweezers and a magnifying glass…

I’ve gotten nasty little prickly pear glochids in my fingers. Tweezers and scraping the skin surface at an angle with a rough cloth got most of them out and the rest apparently worked out on their own within days.

Has the doctor actually confirmed foreign bodies emerging from the skin, or from subcutaneous tissue into skin layers after an incident “years ago”? Sounds odd.

Your friend got infested with parasitic mussel larvae from a close encounter with a desert cactus?

Oh, cactus. Here’s a blog post, allegedly by an ER doctor, suggesting several methods. He seems to think leg-waxing wax is the best.

But I don’t know about removing them such a long time after the fact. Sounds like they have become systemic in your friend’s system, emerging much later. You could only pick off the ones that emerge. How many more are there inside your friend? Do they reproduce on their own there like real parasites? Have to agree with Jackmannii: Sounds odd.

A little touch of Morgellon’s Disease perhaps?

There have been numerous accounts of foreign bodies being expelled a long time after an incident.


I’ve seen them as well, very odd.

Thanks for the all the good info!

She has tried waxing and a bunch of other stuff and has really been doing her research and is hitting dead ends so I decided to try here.

Actually one doctor treated her for a fungus that was starting to develop but that’s gone now.

Does sound systemic, but they only come out of her finger tips unlike some folks who have them come out anywhere. Hope that doesn’t become the case and as a dude that thought alone scares me.:eek:

We are reading that they do sort of reproduce or have a defense against white blood cells. Supposedly the Glochids create a hard shell pod thing around them to protect against the body’s immune system. That’s what she read anyway:confused:

There is really no telling how many are in her. She gets a dark blotch in the area before they start emerging. She also said the feeling in that area is similar to the feeling of fiberglass in her skin.

She is willing to fly to any doctor who can cure this :smiley:

Has she tried duct tape?

It sounds like she may be pulling them out too soon. As they work their way up, she pulls from the top and breaks it off below the surface. Then the epidermis heals over, and it takes a long time for the rest of it to break through again and get where she can grab hold of it. Rinse. Repeat.

I would advise trying to protect the emerging bit and let it come all the way (or more of the way) out on its own. If she’s got a 1/4inch pricker in there, and she’s breaking it off 1 or 2 mm’s at a time, I can see how it might be several years before the process is complete.

IANAD, but I did have an unfortunate run-in with a raspberry bush in my youth. As the prickers broke through to the skin the tiny point of sharp pain felt like a hellish burning itch. : shudder : Shingles are similar, but much worse.

This, and the Lamisil (an antifungal) you say one doctor prescribed have nothing to do with prickly pear glochids. Any secondary infection (which is possible when one is impaled by thorns of any kind) is extremely unlikely to manifest years after exposure.

Uh, no they don’t. We are talking about very tiny, difficult to see hair-like projections that don’t migrate through the bloodstream or lymphatics to appear “anywhere” in the body. They are inert foreign bodies, so small that any embedded in the skin should long ago have been bound up in foreign body reaction and fibrosis, and either broken down or rendered unable to migrate through tissue under any conceivable circumstances. There could quite possibly be small lumps (granulomas) that are seen as irritating or disfiguring, but shouldn’t be itchy (unless constant scratching causes skin irritation) and don’t represent an active process.

Nope, none of that is true.

Sounds like at least some may not think it’s a dermatologic problem. If it is, here’s an interesting idea: “In perhaps the only controlled study (in rabbits), glochids (of Opuntia ficus-indica) were most effectively removed by first removing the larger clumps with tweezers and then applying glue to the affected area with gauze on top. After the glue dried, the gauze was grasped and peeled off. This resulted in removal of 95% of implanted spines.”

Before going further down the derm route, reading these and similar postings on the webmd forums might be eye-opening:

Your friend may well have fallen into a prickly pear at some point in the past, but re the almost impossible nature (re only coming out her fingertips etc) of the symptoms it sounds like this is (at this point) more of a psychological issue like Morgellons Disease than a physical issue.

Fixing this type of delusion is almost impossible as it feels “real” to the sufferer. I would not invest much effort into trying to convince her it’s her imagination. The doctors are telling her “nothing” because they know thy are dealing with a psychotic mental condition not a dermatological issue.

Thanks for the tip

advice taken

Did you constantly wear band-aids when you had this experience?

She uses Ambisol (sp) to numb her fingers and wraps them in band-aids before going out.

I would agree with you on this but the Doctors have physically seen them and even scoped them so she could get a look see at them. I’ve seen them as well so it’s very real.

Does Morgellons come on suddenly or does it slowly come on over time due to a certain obsessive behavior such as say…picking? Cause i could see this becoming a compulsive behavior from constant obsessive picking.

Oh and I forgot to mention… she works at a Doctors Office that has 10 doctors :lol

Jackmanni was trying to say politely that very small spines will not migrate through the body and come out the fingertips. That does not happen. Whatever she is pulling out of her fingertips could be any kind of body tissue and in fact people suffering from Morgellons type delusions will often do just that and claim it is foreign bodies. This behavior made the disorder very difficult to pin down as other people including doctors saw “stuff” the sufferers claimed they were exuding. It is not possible that super teeny spines have gone on a long journey through her body and are now coming out just her fingertips. You’re dealing with a psychosis. Confronting them is useless. All dermatologists can do is play along then when they realize what they are dealing with, move them along and hope they get mental care.

Unless the doctors have a vested interest in digging into her claims they are likely to shrug their shoulders and move on. Morgellons sufferers will often “produce” stuff they clamed they pulled out that are just fibers in the environment sitting on their skin. The con is impossible to detect unless you can actually watch the whole chain of removal from start to finish and then also have the expertise to know what is body tissue and what is a truly foreign body. Detecting it is incredibly difficult.

No hard cites, but this isn’t the first time I have heard of object migrating through the body. Sea Urchin spines were one thing I remember reading about.

Then there’s this comment from the Snopes forum:

ETA: Note that for an object to migrate, it must have barbs or a shape that gives it a preferential direction of motion, when the surrounding tissue moves.

This is certainly true of Opuntia spines - it’s the thing that makes them so troublesome - you only need brush against the plant and the spines/hairs harpoon themselves into your skin - attempts to pull them out often just end up working them further in.

I’d say that for an object to migrate within the body though, it doesn’t necessarily need barbs - it just needs to be asymmetric - a shard of glass that is very thin and pointed at one end, but blunt at the other is going to tend to push through flesh at the pointy end, but be pushed at the blunt end.