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Contact Lens Wearers Beware

Nina Avramova’s CNN article brings to light findings from a new study by researchers of the University College London. It is significant because it established that the number of cases of a rare infection, Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), have nearly tripled in the southeast of England since 2011.

The study found that “ninety percent of Acanthamoeba keratitis cases in the UK are discovered in contact lens wearers, due to most risk factors being related to lens hygiene,” according to researcher Dr. John Dart. Symptoms: “Infection with Acanthamoeba keratitis, a cyst-forming microorganism, causes an inflammation of the cornea. Symptoms include excessive pain and compromised vision.” Dart points out that “only 70% of patients were cured within 12 months. For the remaining 30%, the treatment took over a year.” So treatment is unfortunately not a quick fix.

Dart explains that 90% of cases in the UK can be traced to hard-water areas. Do not introduce tap water to your lenses, EVER. Other risk-factors associated with infection for disposable contact lens wearers, highlighted in Avramova’s article, are that “people who did not wash and dry their hands before handling their lenses, those who used disinfectant products containing Oxipol (now phased out by the manufacturer), and people who wore their lenses in swimming pools or hot tubs. Showering and face-washing while wearing contact lenses are also likely to be risk factors, the study found.”

The takeaway here is that having proper contact lens hygiene is non-negotiable. Being a responsible contact lens wearer can literally save your sight. If you ever experience any pain or discomfort, do the right thing and schedule an appointment to see your eye doctor right away. Time is of the essence with any eye infection, and, even more so with a rare microorganism as powerful and as infiltrating as AK.

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