Acanthamoeba infection. Doesn’t sound fun at all, does it? For contact lens wearers, this should be something you need to get familiar with. Acanthamoeba infection most commonly occurs in people who wear contact lenses, especially those who shower or enter swimming pools or hot tubs wearing contacts. The chance for infection can be increased if you practice poor hygiene when it comes to caring for your contacts- such as not cleaning or disinfecting them properly. This particular infection caught my eye (no pun intended!) while I was reading Shape Magazine, so I decided to do some more research on it- because I frequently wear my contacts while I shower. Who wants the hassle of removing the contacts, then inserting them again once out of the shower? Seemed like a waste of time. But it is an important step that I should be taking.
According to CDC.gov, Acanthamoeba is a microscopic, single-celled living organism found in the environment. It can cause severe, but often rare illnesses. Infections involving the eyes are called Acanthamoeba keratitis. It is most often linked to contact lenses wearers, but there is also a slim chance that non-wearers can contact the infection as well. Acanthamoeba can be found worldwide, and a few places that it can be found include swimming pools, hot tubs, and drinking water systems.
How can you prevent getting infected? As always, it is important to see an eye doctor on a regular basis. For most people, that is once a year. The doctor will check your eye health, and be able to warn you of any problems. If you do wear contacts, be sure to handle them properly, including disinfecting them and changing them according to schedule. For example, I open a new pair of lenses every two weeks. And be sure to remove lenses before any activity that involves water.
If you think you may have been infected, it is important to be seen by an eye doctor immediately. Eye infections caused by Acanthamoeba are usually treatable. Some of the symptoms include:
- Eye pain
- Eye redness
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensation of something in the eye
- Excessive tearing
My point in writing this article isn’t to terrify people and have you ripping out your lenses if you get a drop of water in your eye. But I was never aware of the added risks contact lenses bring to my health. There are a few eye doctors who say that it is okay to wear contacts while showering, as long as you take care of your lenses properly and try to avoid water in the eyes. Not all water systems are contaminated, but it is simply the awareness we should have. I know that taking a few extra minutes to remove my contacts before I shower is worth preventing an infection. Has anyone experienced an eye infection before brought on by contaminated water? Do you remove your contacts before showering or entering a pool? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Research obtained from CDC.gov