My doctor said, ‘Lola, you’re lucky to be alive’

My name is Ololade. My friends and family call me “Lola.” I had a small pimple on my face just on the right side of my nose. I felt neither pain nor discomfort but thought it was disfiguring. That made me very sad. Mother, an experienced nurse, warned me to keep my hands off it. “It will soon disappear,” she had said.

After waiting for about four weeks and it did not disappear, I decided to do something about it. “I don’t want it! I must remove it today,” I said to myself. Standing in front of a mirror, I grasped the pimple between my two fingers and squeezed it firmly. A creamy, cheesy substance came out followed by a little blood. Mission accomplished, I felt satisfied and fulfilled.

The following day, the spot was slightly swollen. Again, on the advice of a friend, I rubbed some palm oil on it. Two days later, I observed that the swelling had gone bigger and was now tender to touch. “It will soon go away,” I reassured myself. However, three days later, I woke up with a fever and severe headache. My eyelids and the whole of the right side of my face were now massively swollen and puffy.

Worse still the swelling had crossed the midline and was spreading to the left side of my face. The headache and fever had become more intense and unbearable. I looked at myself in the mirror and to my dismay, I couldn’t recognise myself. I was really scared and decided to see our family doctor. He insisted that I should see an ophthalmologist immediately.

With high fever, severe headache, markedly swollen face, Deola, my younger sister later informed me, I was a sorry sight. I was not lucid again and was losing touch with people around me. It was impossible for any of my friends to recognise me easily. Even the ophthalmologist had to forcibly separate my lids with his two hands before he could catch a glimpse of my eyeballs. My visual acuity was impaired in the right eye; the eyeball was stationary and there was no movement in any direction. The ophthalmologist made a diagnosis of cavernous sinus thrombosis.

“What is cavernous sinus thrombosis?” I asked Deola, when I recovered. She had accompanied me to the ophthalmologist’s office.  “Cavernous sinus thrombosis, as its name implies, is the formation of a blood clot (thrombus) within the cavernous sinus. The cavernous sinus is a channel located within the skull and serves to drain blood from the brain and the upper portion of the face back to the heart. Surrounding the cavernous sinus are important nerves called the cranial nerves because they originate from the brain within the cranium (skull bone).

“It is important to know this because cavernous sinus thrombosis affects three very important cranial nerves. These are cranial nerves 3, 4, and 6, which are necessary for eye movement, and cranial nerve 5, which gives sensation to the top and middle portion of the head and face. This is a medical emergency and I had to be admitted into the hospital,” the ophthalmologist said.

“Cavernous thrombosis is caused by bacterial infections and can result in serious complications and even death. Because the veins on the part of the skin of the face above the level of the mouth or in the nose and ears drain into the cavernous sinus, any infection of these areas can spread directly into the cavernous sinus and into the brain.  This is what happened in Lola’s case. When she pressed the pimple on her face, she got it infected and the infection spread through the veins into the cavernous sinus setting up a chain of events with severe consequences.” “Lola you are very lucky to be alive,” Deola said, echoing the doctor. “It was a long process of recovery lasting about three months.” What a price to pay for a tiny pimple?

To prevent such a problem as this from happening, it would be advisable not to pick any pimple on the face. Any boil or infection of the nose and ears should also be treated promptly using the appropriate antibiotics in the right dosages. Self-medication should be avoided because the consequences of inadequate treatment are too serious to imagine.