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Do not shower with your contacts, warns a man blinded by eye parasites

Two Acanthamoeba protozoa seen under a scanning electron microscope.
Image: Janice Haney Carr (CDC / Catherine Armbruster, Margaret Williams)

The heartbreaking story of a British journalist who has lost sight of his right eye will surely terrify all lax users of contact lens hygiene. He contracted a rare parasitic infection, probably as a result of a shower with his contacts. This costly mistake required more than 18 months of intensive treatment and it is very likely that he will never see his right eye again.

Nick Humphreys, a 29-year-old reporter from the local Shropshire Star, told his story in a point-of-sale column this week. According to Humphreys, the problem began in January 2018. His right eye, which was visibly dry for a week, became incredibly light-sensitive and pain-filled. In the absence of over-the-counter eye drops, he visited an ophthalmologist, where an ulcer was discovered. A visit to the hospital then revealed the culprit of his symptoms: a corneal infection caused by a protozoan called Acanthamoeba.

"In our water and in our soil, there is a parasitic insect that can destroy your eye and make you blind," wrote Humphreys.

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At first, his treatment of ophthalmic disinfectant drops went well, but in March 2018 he completely lost the vision of his right eye; the infection had returned. He spent six months in excruciating pain, barely able to leave home or even read. He started a time-consuming treatment and used eye drops every hour. Humphreys having suffered a worsening of his condition, Humphreys finally underwent experimental surgery during which layers of the eye had been removed so that doctors could expose him to a high dose of vitamins and vitamins. ultraviolet light (this procedure, called crosslinking, has emerged as a last resort for Acanthamoeba keratitis that has not responded to medication in recent years).

Fortunately, the surgery seemed to do the trick to treat the infection. But Humphreys still needs another surgery a few months later to repair and cure complications from his intensive medical treatment. Now that he is 18 months old, he should have a complete corneal transplant in August (along with a cataract surgery), which should give him at least a little vision in his right eye.

"It's crucial that people know that it's a reality and that it can happen because of something as simple as taking a shower."

For those who have contacts, it should be noted that Acanthamoeba
keratitis it's rare. Our eyes are not usually those where the amoeba likes to call home. But that seems to become
more common in some parts of the world, such as the United Kingdom. When a person is carrying contacts, she is likely to get infected with this virus because the lenses can transfer the germ of contaminated water or dirt directly to your eyes, as well as the trap there.

Acanthamoeba found abundantly in water and soil, so there is no sure way to know how Humphreys contracted it. But the vast majority of its victims are contact lens wearers – up to 85%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The main known risk factors for people who wear contacts include showering or swimming with lenses, contact with tap water or improper handling by putting them in the eyes or keeping them for the night. Lenses left too long may also offer more risk of infection.

Humphreys, for his part, hoped that telling his story could serve as an edifying account.

"Honestly, I can say that if I had the slightest idea that it was even a distant possibility, I would never have made contacts at the beginning. It is crucial that people know that it is a reality and that it can happen because of something as simple as taking a shower, "he wrote.

He also insists that contact lens manufacturers include more explicit warning labels for their products.

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