Preventing Acanthamoeba Keratitis - A Serious Eye Infection in Contact Lens Wearers
What is Acanthamoeba Keratitis?
Acanthamoeba keratitis is a very serious, but rare, eye infection that contact lens wearers are susceptible to. Acanthamoeba are amoeba (microscopic organisms) that live in many water sources including tap water. If these organisms get into the eye and cause infection, the result is Acanthamoeba keratitis.
Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment
Symptoms of Acanthamoeba keratitis include:
- Light sensitivity
- Eye redness
- Eye pain
- Blurred vision
- Foreign body sensation (feels like something is in the eye)
- A white ring covering the iris (colored part) of the eye, in advanced stages of the disease
Acanthamoeba keratitis is very difficult to diagnose. Sometimes it is not even suspected until other, more common infections have been ruled out. The condition can be confirmed by doing a culture of a corneal scraping or with confocal microscopy.
If caught early, the infection can sometimes be treated with medications or epithelial debridement (tissue removal). Unfortunately, most cases of Acanthamoeba keratitis result in permanent vision loss, which can only be reversed with a corneal transplant, which is a serious surgical procedure.
Proper lens care and hygiene can prevent Acanthamoeba keratitis
The good news is that while very serious, Acanthamoeba keratitis is also very preventable. The most common cause of this infection is improper contact lens hygiene.
Following the guidelines below will help reduce your risk of getting this serious, sight-threatening infection:
- Always wash hand thoroughly with soap and water before handling lenses.
- Wear and replace your lenses according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
- Clean contact lenses as often as directed by the manufacturer and your doctor.
- Always clean your lenses upon removal.
- Always use sterile contact lens disinfecting solution to clean lenses, never tap water, homemade solution, or saline solution.
- Always use fresh solution when cleaning lenses, do not reuse or top off old solution.
- Rinse your contact lens case with sterile contact lens solution after each use (not water) and allow to air dry.
- Clean and sterilize your contact lens cases regularly, and replace them at least once every three months.
- Remove lenses before any activity involving water including showering, swimming, or using a hot tub.
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