United States Vice President Mike Pence and Mrs. Karen Pence appear on stage after the Vice President … [+]
People on social media seemed to notice two things about the appearance of Vice President Mike Pence during his debate with Senator Kamala Harris on Wednesday night. Both things rhyme with moon pie.
One was a fly. During the debate, a fly treated Pence’s head like a Dulles International Airport. The insect landed on Pence’s head when this photo showed:
This is the top view of Pence’s head during the debate. (Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images)
Then the fly rolled, maybe refueled, and finally started again. It is not clear whether the fly in Pence’s hair has been investigating. All the while, Pence didn’t flinch or even seem to notice the fly. The fly did not answer any of the moderator’s questions directly, which was not too different from what the two main debaters did at one point during the television debate at the University of Utah.
The fly quickly became popular on social media. In fact, there appeared to be a number of new Twitter accounts. For example, Mike Pences Fly (@MikePenceFly___) already has 76.6,000 followers and tweeted the following video:
Then there is the @ MichaelFly account, which quickly attracted 14.9,000 followers, has the description “Living rent-free on Mike Pence’s head since 2020” and tweeted this:
The second thing social media noticed about Pences’ appearance was his eye. For example, Jemele Hill, writer for The Atlantic, tweeted a question:
Various people on Twitter pointed out that Pence’s left eye appeared to be a reddish hue. In particular, the normally white or whiter parts of his eye appeared to have some redness. Of course, those parts of your eye shouldn’t be this color unless of course you’ve tried sprinkling some ketchup on your hot dog and really missed it. Some on Twitter speculated that the redness may be from conjunctivitis:
Conjunctivitis now has nothing to do with the use of conjunctions. Conjunctions connect words like “but” and “and”. “Thanks for your question, but I will now answer the question I want to answer.” Conjunctivitis is when your conjunctiva is inflamed or swollen. The word conjunctiva might sound a bit like naughty parts, but it isn’t. It is this very thin and transparent layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye and extends over the inner surface of your eyelid. People often call conjunctivitis “pink eye” colloquially. There are many possible causes of pink eyes, both infectious and non-infectious. Still, a possible cause seemed to lie in the minds of some twitterers:
In fact, I wrote for Forbes back in April that conjunctivitis is a possible symptom of Covid-19 coronavirus infection. Severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) can cause a variety of eye problems. Covid-19 must be a problem for Pence as at least 27 people in President Donald Trump’s inner circle have recently tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus. And, presumably, Trump’s inner circle still includes his Vice President Pence. But you can never know for sure.
Regardless of this, in medicine one should never diagnose remotely. Actually, when making corrections, one should normally refrain from diagnosing remotely. There are situations when the diagnosis is pretty obvious. For example, if you see a pig walking over a person from a distance, there is a good chance that later injuries were caused by pigs to the person. Or, if someone’s arm fell off, you can probably tell that the person’s arm just fell off. Such situations are the exception rather than the rule.
In the case of pence, don’t jump to conclusions. Mentioning the redness of his eye conjunctivitis was possibly a premature identification. There are many reasons why Pence’s eye might have appeared reddish. Was it really red? The lights and the TV can do fun things. People often don’t appear in front of the camera like they do in real life. Some celebrities like Zack Galifianakis and SpongeBob SquarePants reportedly look very different in person than they do on TV.
OK, assuming Pence’s eye was really red, you still can’t tell from a distance whether he actually had conjunctivitis. How do you know the conjunctiva was inflamed or swollen? Inflammation in other parts of the eye such as the cornea or iris can also cause eye redness.
In general, the list of possible causes of eye redness is very long. Here are just a few of the options:
- Foreign body or substance: Foreign in this case doesn’t mean anything from another country like Russia. It means anything that normally does not belong in the eye, such as dust, makeup, iridescent rhinestones, a contact lens or a ham sandwich. Without knowing things like Pence’s colorful habits, you can’t rule this out as a possibility.
- Injury: The larger or sharper the foreign body, the more likely it is that it will cause harm, not just be irritated. For example, a bowling ball in the eye is more likely to cause an emergency than a piece of dust.
- Cry: For example, let’s say during the debate, Pence was pondering the scene from the Twilight series when Bella was writing the suicide note to Edward. Yes, this scene is a real tearful stream. Of course, if your feelings are causing you to shed tears, both eyes are involved.
- Dry eyes: Tears would have helped if Pence had dry eyes. Maybe he didn’t have time to put enough drops in his eye to keep it moist.
- Medication: On the other hand, eye drops can cause redness themselves.
- Allergies: Many things can cause allergic reactions. Heck can even fly.
- Blepharitis: That may sound like what you say when someone sneezes. But it occurs when the tiny oil glands around your eyelashes clog.
- Broken blood vessels in the eye: These can be painless and will eventually clear up.
- Eyelid turned inwards or outwards: This is not a metaphysical thing, but if your eyelid is actually curling in a different direction, it could either expose parts of the eye and make it more open to irritation, or it could cause your eyelid to move your eyeball too much.
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma takes time to develop, so it is less likely to cause eye redness in the short term.
- Inflammatory or Autoimmune Disease: Examples are sarcoid, ankylosing spondylitis, systemic lupus erythematosus or Crohn’s disease.
- A number of different infections: Covid-19 is certainly not the only possible infectious cause of red eyes. There are, for example, Staphylococcus infections, herpes, cat scratch disease, syphilis, toxoplasmosis and tuberculosis.
Ultimately, the only way to know for sure why Pence’s left eye appears reddish would be to have a qualified doctor examine his eye in person, rather than remotely. A diagnosis of Covid-19 would be required during the actual Covid-19 coronavirus test. While it may seem tempting to guess what pence might be, only time and real medical exams and tests can tell. Guessing remotely can be like determining whether someone from a Tinder profile is marriage material.
Pence, on the other hand, was likely a fly, or at least some type of insect with the ability to fly. Sure, it could have been some kind of sophisticated Space Force drone. But don’t bet your moon cake on it.