A grandmother has lost an eye after it became infected while wearing contact lenses while showering.
Marie Mason, 54, from Sapcote, Leicestershire, developed an infection in her left eye after a microscopic amoeba, present in tap water, got between her contact lens and cornea.
She first noticed something was wrong when it seemed like something was constantly in her eye in 2015.
After her vision deteriorated, she went to the optician who immediately sent her to the hospital.
Mason was told she had a type of bacteria, Acanthamoeba Keratitis, living in her eye, which was causing her the problems.
Acanthamoeba Keratitis is a rare infection caused by a microscopic, free-living organism that can cause permanent visual impairment or blindness.
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Mason wore contact lenses for 30 days and showered with them, and since the infection can be found in tap water, experts believe it could have caused her eye to become infected.
Over time, the infection multiplied, feasting on Mason’s cornea and deteriorating her vision.
“I had to stop working because I had to put eye drops every half hour and it was so painful,” she explains of the impact.
“I also had to go to the hospital two to three times a week, sometimes even more and often ended up in eye injuries if I had a flare-up.
After five years of trying different medications and a series of unsuccessful surgeries, including three corneal transplants, her eye had to be removed.
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Fortunately, Mason has been able to adjust to the loss of vision in her left eye, and two years later, her life is almost back to normal.
She now works as an administrative assistant again, working for her husband Jonathan, 50, and volunteering at her church.
“My life is fine now, I haven’t gone back to work where I came from, but I’m working and I do a lot of volunteering,” she explains.
“My life is different, but it’s not necessarily a bad change.”
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Mason says the one thing she hasn’t gone back to is driving.
“I stopped riding pretty early in the trip because I wasn’t comfortable with it,” she explains.
“And I don’t have the confidence to go back on it.”
She also says she sometimes struggles with simple, everyday tasks, such as walking down the street.
“When people zoom past you, you jump because you don’t expect it,” she explains.
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Mason is now calling for better warnings on contact lens packaging about the risks of contamination, and warns users not to wear lenses in the shower and to touch them after washing their hands.
“I don’t want anyone to think I’m asking people not to wear contact lenses, because I’m not asking that at all,” she explains.
“I would like manufacturers to put more warnings on the packaging about water and contact lenses.
“I just don’t want anyone else going through what I have,” she adds.
Why you should avoid showering with contact lenses
While it may be tempting for convenience, Tina Patel optician at Feel Good Contacts says wearing your contact lenses in the shower or while swimming or with wet hands can have face-threatening consequences.
“The reason mixing contact lenses and water is such a no go is that there is a risk of Acanthamoeba Keratitis contraction if contaminated water comes into contact with the eye,” she explains.
Patel Says There Are Some Things That Increase Acanthamoeba Keratitis Risk
– wear contact lenses while showering
– wear contact lenses while swimming
– use of non-medically approved contact lens solutions
– keep your lenses in water
– do not wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling contact lenses
– not disinfecting your lenses effectively and following an inadequate cleaning regime.
To prevent Acanthamoeba Keratitis Patel, Patel recommends practicing good hygiene and an effective lens care routine while wearing contact lenses.
“It’s also important to listen carefully to your optician’s advice and always follow their instructions about wearing and caring for lenses,” she adds.
To prevent infection with soft contact lenses
· Wash your hands thoroughly with mild soap and water. Dry your hands thoroughly with a lint-free towel before handling contact lenses
· Use only the lens care system recommended to you by your optician and do not mix it with other solutions
· Also note the different purposes for different solutions. For example, saline is not suitable for disinfection and can only be used for rinsing and short-term storage
Use a new solution every time you clean your lenses and contact lens case
· Do not sleep with contact lenses unless they are long term lenses prescribed by your optician
Never wet contact lenses with water or saliva
· Never use lenses that have been worn by someone else
Gently rub and rinse contact lenses after removing them before putting them back in their case
Replace your lens case at least every three months and ideally monthly
Do not swim with contact lenses
Remember the 3 S’s – don’t swim, sleep or shower with your contact lenses in
What is Acanthamoeba Keratitis?
Acanthamoeba Keratitis is a very painful and serious eye condition that affects the cornea. Although it is a rare infection, it is more common in contact lens users.
Patel says it can have serious complications for patients, resulting in visual impairment or permanent vision loss. In severe cases, a corneal transplant may be necessary.
What are Acanthamoeba?
Acanthamoeba is a naturally occurring, free-living amoeba (single-celled organisms). Acanthamoeba lives in sources such as tap water, sewers, soil, swimming pools, hot tubs and saunas.
“When we encounter Acanthamoeba, it generally causes no damage, but when amoeba infects the cornea, it results in Acanthamoeba Keratitis,” explains Patel.
What Are the Symptoms of Acanthamoeba Keratitis?
Acanthamoeba keratitis can be difficult to detect at first because the symptoms are very similar to other common eye infections and can often be misdiagnosed.
Some common symptoms are:
· Red eyes
Increased sensitivity to light
Extreme eye pain
· Blurred vision
The constant feeling of something in the eye
A ring-shaped ulcer may also appear in later stages of the infection.
If you experience any of these symptoms, Patel recommends removing your contact lenses and seeing your optician immediately, who will advise you on what to do next.
If your optician is not available at that time, you should go to the nearest eye department.
Is Acanthamoeba Keratitis Treatable?
Acanthamoeba is much more difficult to treat than other microbial infections. Antibiotics cannot treat Acanthamoeba.
“Procedures are usually done by trial and error, depending on what the patient is responding to,” explains Patel. “For this reason, early diagnosis is incredibly important.
“One method of treatment is a high dose of topical antimicrobial agents at the site of infection. Cysts can become very resistant to therapy, so a potent combination of substances is required.”
Additional report SWNS.