Alright people, here’s a happy picture to start the article off.
The rest of the article isn’t a nice story to hear and will contain gruesome images of infected eyes.
This post is a PSA to keep contact lenses away from water.
This means showering, swimming or even just handling lenses with wet fingers.
Acanthamoeba is an amoeba commonly found in soil and water. Yes, even tap water. If infected, you will suffer pain to the point of eye removal, and/or blindness.
A seemingly harmless routine
The original story was posted in Shropshire Star, a local news outlet for Shropshire, UK, by Nick Humphreys.
Nick has worn glasses since 4 or 5 years old but started using monthly contact lens in 2013.
He was a Sunday League football player and didn’t like how they look. He would use his contacts up to 5 days a week, and wear glasses on the other days.
His morning routine includes putting on lenses and heading to the gym, then showering before going to work.
As he had never been warned by the opticians nor the packaging labels, the risk of infection wasn’t on his mind.
Then, It Started
On a Friday afternoon in January 2018, he noticed a scratch on his right eye. He attributed it to dry eyes from a lack of sleep and mornings.
He started using eye drops and adjusting the brightness on his devices down as a way to deal with the pain.
As the pain worsened, he went to the optician who noticed an ulcer on the eye.
He was advised to go to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital immediately.
Diagnosis of the infection
Nick was diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) a week later.
It was an infection caused by a microscopic organism called Acanthamoeba that is found in water.
For 3 weeks, Nick would use disinfectant eye drops, but by March 2018 his right eye was completely blind.
This happened as he was driving to work, and warranted another visit to the hospital, where he was referred to the Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre. Higher strength drops which required hourly application even at night were prescribed.
Depression was a side effect
Unable to work from the progressively worsening infection, Nick was stuck to his home for 6 months, save for visits to the hospital. The doctors didn’t know what to do.
“The bug had returned with a vengeance and rendered me pretty much housebound for six months. I couldn’t read a page of a newspaper without being in excruciating pain, light sensitivity was so bad I had to keep the curtains drawn at all times. I even had to watch Eurovision with my sunglasses on.”
‘I felt at my absolute lowest and the one thing that would cheer me up – playing football – was no longer an option.’
Pains from the infection were said to be worse than childbirth.
Start of the recovery
In July, his doctor had to try experimental cross-linking surgery, which is normally used to treat keratoconus – an eye disease causing the corner to be cone-shaped. This killed the infection, but he remained blind in the right eye.
A second operation was to be done in September for healing from the months of toxic drops and damaging procedures. The painful operation went well, but it wasn’t the end of it all.
“The problem was a few days afterwards when I pulled back the safety patches and saw a monster looking back at me in the mirror.
Depression and anxiety have been a problem since, but fortunately, it has healed to a point where, with glasses on, it’s not too noticeable to others.”
Nick has since worked with the charity Fight for Sight for raising awareness on the dangers of using contacts while showering or swimming, which also helped with his depression.
To this point, Nick is still blind on the right eye, but he is scheduled to have a full corneal transplant on 15 August 2019, which includes cataract surgery. He swears to never wear contacts again and also urges contact lens makers to put sufficient warnings on packaging.
“I’ve lost 18 months of my life because of something as simple as showering with contacts in.”
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