Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report about a rare, disease-like infection that is a real cautionary tale.
A 41-year-old British woman was diagnosed with acanthamoeba keratitis — a rare eye infection which may cause blindness — after swimming and showering with her contact lenses.
For any contact lens wearers, this hits a nerve!
What is Acanthamoeba?
Acanthamoeba can cause a serious brain infection that can be life threatening to the patient. Acanthamoeba infection can lead to Granulomatous amebic. This species of amoeba are found in water sources that are around humans every day such as lakes, pools, heating and air conditioning systems and even in our tap water.
It’s a very serious illness especially for the young, the old, and people whose immune systems have been compromised for one reason or another.
Swimming with the Enemy
The piece reports that the unnamed woman wore monthly disposable soft contact lenses, and first sought medical attention two months after experiencing intermittent pain, blurry vision and light sensitivity in her left eye.
Experts conclude she caught the infection after swimming and showering with her contact lenses. She had 20/20 vision in her right eye, but her vision was only 20/200 in her left eye.
Luckily, doctors were able to diagnose the woman after taking a corneal scraping and putting dye in her left eye, which produces a bright green color if the infection is present. She was given antimicrobrial drops, and eventually underwent eye surgery.
Today, she no longer feels any discomfort in her eye and has 20/80 vision.
Important Prevention Info!
Acanthamoeba only affects one to two per million contact lens wearers in the U.S. every year, and is caused when a type of amoeba commonly found in water makes its way into a person’s cornea.
“It’s a difficult infection to treat, and it’s usually aggressive,” says Dr. Shilpa Register, an optometrist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, adding that although she’s only seen two cases in the past 19 years, it can “cause blindness pretty quickly if it’s not treated immediately.”
In order to prevent the risk of eye infection, the CDC recommends that all contact users remove their contacts before coming into contact with water, replace the lenses in a timely manner, make regular doctor’s visits, and always maintain proper hygiene.