Imagine going blind just because you showered while wearing your contact lenses.
That’s what happened to one unfortunate 41-year-old woman in the UK, who lost vision in her left eye after contracting a parasite associated with wearing contacts, thanks to her habit of swimming and showering with her contacts in.
She came to her doctor complaining of blurry vision, eye pain and sensitivity to light that had persisted for two months, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The woman, who wore soft, disposable contact lenses, tested 20/200 in her left eye, making her “legally blind” by UK standards. Thankfully, her right eye was healthy.
Noticing a cloudiness in her cornea, the doctors used a special dye, called fluorescein eye stain, which helps them detect damage to the eye’s outer covering by turning the affected areas green when shone under a blue light.
After discovering a defect in the woman’s cornea, they took samples of her eye — which tested positive for Acanthamoeba keratitis, a rare parasitic amoeba known to cause blindness. Report authors, led by Dr. Lanxing Fu, of the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, say the condition is linked to the use of contacts.
This is the second case of a parasite burrowing into an eyeball reported this month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the Acanthamoeba infection often travels through undistilled water, soil and even air. Those who use contacts put themselves at risk if they don’t take proper precautions — by removing the lenses before swimming and showering, or using tap water to clean them.
Though rare, there have been many documented cases of Acanthamoeba keratitis. One teenager in the UK says her infection led to other complications, having mysteriously developed Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, shortly after her treatment for the parasite.
The woman involved in the NEJM case study was treated with medication that cleared her infection, but did not regain her vision due to her scarred cornea. She later underwent a partial corneal transplant, which improved her eyesight slightly. The report also notes that she is no longer in pain.
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