10 July 2019

Man blinded by parasite living in his eye after he showered with contact lenses in

The College's Clinical Adviser, Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom provides advice for contact lens wearers.

You may have read a recent article discussing a man’s experience being blinded by a parasite living in his eye after he showered with contact lenses. Here’s what our Clinical Adviser, Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom, had to say on the article: “Acanthamoeba keratitis is a condition which effects the cornea, the clear outer layer at the front of the eyeball. The condition is painful, can cause blurry vision, redness and an increased sensitivity to bright lights. The condition is caused by a small organism called acanthamoeba, which is commonly found in water, including tap water, swimming pools, rivers, lakes and in the soil. 
“Fortunately, being affected by acanthamoeba is rare. Acanthamoeba generally does not cause harm as most people’s skin and corneas form a protective barrier, preventing it from entering the body. However, if a person has had a recent scratch to the surface of the eyeball or wears contact lenses, they are more susceptible to acquiring the condition, if exposed to acanthamoeba. 
“If you wear contact lenses it is important you minimise the risk of being affected by acanthamoeba by not letting your contact lenses come into contact with water.  A study published by Moorfields Eye Hospital in 2018 found that acanthamoeba keratitis is still quite rare, affecting only 2.5 in 100,000 contact lens users per year in south east England. However, despite being rare, the condition is very serious and challenging to treat, so prevention is better than cure. 
“If you wear contact lenses, follow these simple steps to reduce the risk of acanthamoeba keratitis:

  • Always wash and dry your hands before handling contact lenses
  • Never clean or rinse your contact lenses with tap water
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses whilst swimming or when using a hot tubs 
  • Attend regular contact lens check-ups and follow the advice of your optometrist”

Carnt N, Hoffman JJ, Verma S, et al Acanthamoeba keratitis: confirmation of the UK outbreak and a prospective case-control study identifying contributing risk factors British Journal of Ophthalmology 2018;102:1621-1628. 

Related further reading

For the very last issue of Optometry in Practice, Professor Jonathan Jackson MCOptom reflects on the past two decades of the journal and its contribution to our learning.

This paper explores trends in where patients seek information on contact lenses, who has the most influence on their decision making and the perceived importance of the patient–practitioner relationship.

This in-person peer review in Belfast is free of charge for College members and will cover your peer review CPD requirement, offering 3 CPD points.