A grandmother 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 that something was wrong when she stared in 2015 to feel something constantly in her eye.
After her vision deteriorated, she went to the opticians who immediately sent her to the hospital.
Mason was told that she had a type of bacteria, Acanthamoeba Keratitis, living in her eye, which was causing her 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, showered in them, and since the infection can be found in tap water, experts believe this could have led to her eye becoming infected.
Over time, the infection multiplied, feasting on Mason’s cornea and causing her vision to deteriorate.
“I had to stop working because I had to put in eye drops every half hour and it was so painful,” she explains about the impact.
“I also had to go to the hospital two to three times a week, sometimes even more often and often ended up with eye injuries when I had a flare-up.
After five years of trying different medications and after a series of failed surgeries, including three cornea transplants, her eye had to be removed.
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Fortunately, Mason was able to adjust to the loss of sight in her left eye and two years later her life is almost back to normal.
She is now back working as an admin assistant, working for her husband Jonathan, 50, and volunteering with her church.
“My life is good now, I haven’t gone back to work to the place I left, but I work and I do a lot of volunteer work,” she explains.
“My life is different, but it’s not necessarily a bad change.”
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Mason says the only thing she hasn’t gone back to is driving.
“I stopped riding quite early on in the trip because I wasn’t comfortable with it,” she explains.
“And I don’t have the confidence to go back there.”
She also says she sometimes struggles with simple, everyday tasks like walking down the street.
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Mason is now calling for better warnings on contact lens packages about the risks of contamination, warning users not to wear lenses in the shower and to touch them after washing their hands.
“I don’t want to think that I’m asking people not to wear contact lenses, because I’m not asking that at all,” she explains.
“I just wish the manufacturers would put more warnings on the packaging about water and contact lenses.
“I just don’t want anyone else to go through what I have,” she adds.
Why you should avoid showering in 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 vision threatening consequences.
“The reason that mixing contact lenses and water is such a no go is that there is a risk of contracting Acanthamoeba Keratitis if contaminated water comes into contact with the eye,” she explains.
Patel says there are some things that increase the risk of Acanthamoeba Keratitis
– wearing contact lenses when in the shower
– wearing contact lenses while swimming
– the use of non-medically approved contact lens solutions
– store your lenses in water
– not washing and drying your hands properly before handling contact lenses
– failing to disinfect your lenses effectively and following an inadequate cleaning regimen.
To prevent Acanthamoeba Keratitis, Patel recommends practicing good hygiene and an effective lens care routine when wearing contact lenses.
“It’s also important to listen carefully to your optician’s advice and always follow their instructions on lens wear and care,” 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 by your optician and do not mix with other solutions
Also note the different goals for different solutions. Saline solution, for example, is not suitable for disinfection, and can only be used for rinsing and short-term storage
· Use fresh solution every time you clean your lenses and contact lens case
· Do not sleep in lenses unless they are extended wear lenses prescribed to you by your optician
· Never wet contact lenses with water or saliva
· Never use lenses that have been worn by someone else
· Rub and rinse contact lenses carefully after removal, before putting them back in their case
· Replace your lens case at least every three months and ideally every month
· 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 wearers.
Patel says it can have severe complications for patients, resulting in visual impairments or permanent vision loss. In severe cases, a corneal transplant may be necessary.
What are Acanthamoeba?
Acanthamoeba are naturally occurring, free-living amoeba (single-celled organisms). Acanthamoeba lives in sources such as tap water, sewage systems, soil, swimming pools, hot tubs and saunas.
“When we encounter Acanthamoeba, it generally does not cause any damage; however, when amoeba infects the cornea, this results in Acanthamoeba Keratitis,” explains Patel.
What are the symptoms of Acanthamoeba Keratitis?
Acanthamoeba Keratitis can be difficult to detect initially 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
· Excessive tearing
An annular 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.
If your optician cannot be reached at that time, you should go to your nearest eye injury department.
Is Acanthamoeba Keratitis Treated?
Acanthamoeba is much more challenging to treat than other microbial infections. Antibiotics cannot treat Acanthamoeba.
“Procedures are mostly done by trial and error, depending on what the patient responds to,” Patel explains. “For this reason, an early diagnosis is incredibly important.
“One method of treatment is a high dosage of topical antimicrobial agents in the area of the infection site. Cysts can become very resistant to therapy, so a powerful combination of substances is required.”
Additional reporting SWNS.