Acanthamoeba Keratitis – An eye condition to be aware of if you use contact lenses.
Acanthamoeba eye infections in contact lens wearers are rare but serious and you can lose eyesight altogether if left untreated. These infections often start because of improper lens handling and poor hygiene.
Advanced Acanthamoeba keratitis can cause a white “ring” to cover the iris, as well as redness in the white of the eye. If you have eye pain, eye redness that won’t clear up with drops, blurry vision, light sensitivity, excessive tearing or feel as if there is something in your eye, you should see your optician.
What Is Acanthamoeba Keratitis?
Acanthamoeba are naturally occurring amoeba (tiny, one-celled animals) commonly found in water sources, such as tap water, well water, swimming pools, hot tubs, and soil and sewage systems. If these tiny parasites infect the eye, Acanthamoeba keratitis results.
First diagnosed in 1973, an estimated 85 percent of Acanthamoeba keratitis cases affect contact lens users. In the developed world, the incidence of Acanthamoeba keratitis is approximately one to 33 cases per million contact lens wearers. That incidence may be increasing.
How Do You Know if You Have Acanthamoeba Keratitis?
Symptoms of Acanthamoeba keratitis include red eyes and eye pain after removing your contact lenses, as well as tearing, light sensitivity, blurred vision and a feeling that something is in your eye.
With these types of symptoms, you should always contact your optician. But keep in mind that Acanthamoeba keratitis is often difficult for your optician to diagnose at first, because its symptoms are similar to pink eye symptoms and those of other eye infections.
Diagnosis of keratitis often occurs once it is determined that the condition is resistant to antibiotics used to manage other infections. A “ring-like” ulceration of your corneal tissue may also occur. Unfortunately, if not promptly treated, Acanthamoeba keratitis can cause permanent vision loss or require a corneal transplant to recover lost vision.
How You Can Reduce the Risk of Getting Acanthamoeba Keratitis.
There are several easy ways to greatly reduce the chance of getting this sight-threatening condition — and, in fact, any type of contact lens-related eye infection:
- Clean your contact lenses and remember to also clean and sterilize your lens cases, to avoid Acanthamoeba contamination.
- Follow your optician or doctor’s recommendations regarding care of your contact lenses.
- Use only professional products that they recommend.
- Never use tap water to clean your contact lenses. Contact lenses should not be exposed to water of any kind.
- Do not swim, shower or use a hot tub while wearing contacts. If you do decide to wear your lenses while swimming, wear airtight swim goggles over them.
- Soak your lenses in fresh disinfecting solution every night. Don’t use a wetting solution or saline solution that isn’t intended for disinfection.
- Always wash your hands before handling your lenses.
- Always clean your contacts immediately upon removal (unless you are wearing disposable contact lenses that are replaced daily). To clean your lenses, rub the lenses under a stream of multipurpose solution — even if using a “no-rub” solution. Then store them in a clean case filled with fresh (not “topped off”) multipurpose or disinfecting solution.
- It’s important to clean, rinse and air-dry your contact lens case immediately after removing your lenses from the case. Discard the old solution and rub the inside wells of the case with clean fingers for at least five seconds. Then fill the case with multipurpose solution or sterile saline (not tap or bottled water), dump this out, and store the case upside down with the caps off.
- As an extra precaution, you might want to consider sterilizing your empty contact lens case once a week by submerging it in boiling water for a few minutes.
- Many eye doctors also say you should discard and replace your contact lens case monthly or, at a minimum, every three months to help prevent contamination.
- Prevention is your best defense against Acanthamoeba keratitis. Always use good hygiene during contact lens use and care. And if you notice any unusual eye symptoms that might indicate an infection, immediately consult your optician.
Very important: Always make sure you discuss and make decisions about your eye care based upon a formal appointment with your optician.
For more information and to book and eye examination please contact us:
Specs Direct | Professional Affordable Eyewear
20 McIntyre Street, Parow, Cape Town 7500
Tel: 021 939 1020
Note: We are contracted in to all medical aids