Contact lenses are not for everyone, but if you do use them, you must be stringent about eye hygiene to avoid any nasty organisms taking up residence in your eye. Just ask this man from the United Kingdom, who lost the sight in one eye because of it.
Nick Humphreys, 29, of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, plays amateur football, and he needs glasses. Playing contact sport wearing glasses would seem hazardous, so naturally, players who do need glasses would opt for contacts. “In my mid-twenties I really started to throw myself into exercise and at the time I thought my glasses were a massive hindrance,” he explained.
He overcame his fear of using contact lenses, and after getting used to them, he would wear them most days. “On a standard morning I’d wake up, pop my lenses in and head to the gym before work, then I’d jump in the shower before heading to the office,” he said, as reported by The Sun.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) July 9, 2019
Often, Humphreys would wear his contacts in the shower, and one day in January 2018, he noticed a painful scratch on his eye and used eye drops to help control the pain while awaiting test results from the optician. Results indicated he had an infection caused by acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), a small organism that can burrow into the eye through a scratch or small cut.
Suddenly, two months later while driving to work, he completely lost vision in his right eye, and it hasn’t returned. “I was driving to work and my vision completely went in my right eye,” he recalled.
Due to the pain in his eye, Humphreys hadn’t been able to leave the house, let alone go to work, but he knew that he had to somehow make it back to see the doctor.
“I don’t know how I managed not to crash, but it didn’t take me long to realize I needed to get back to the hospital,” Humphreys told The Sun.
— Daily Star (@Daily_Star) July 9, 2019
Adding to the pain and the lack of sight in one eye, the physical appearance of the injury took its toll on his mental state. “I felt at my absolute lowest and the one thing that would cheer me up—playing football—was no longer an option,” he said.
“The reality of the situation had well and truly hit me, I’d let myself go since all of this happened and I was left with a gory-looking eye I had to cover with an eye patch—looking like something out of The Exorcist.”
Now, two operations have cleared the infection from his eye, and he is able to join in the activities he loves, but his sight hasn’t yet returned.
“After getting the infection, I went from hitting the gym every other day and playing football three times a week, to being housebound for six months and losing the will to live,” he told Daily Mail. “Obviously, I didn’t want to be blind in my right eye, but at least, knowing the infection had gone, I could start to get my life back on track. I could finally return to work and start to hit the gym.”
The recovering footballer now helps to raise awareness of the dangers of swimming or showering while wearing contacts through the charity Fight For Sight.
“I can honestly say if I’d had the slightest idea that this was even a remote possibility, I would never have worn contacts in the first place. It’s crucial that people out there know this is a reality, and it can happen because of something as simple as getting in the shower. If I get my sight back I’ll never wear contacts again,” he said.
In one study in 2018 by UCL and Moorfields Eye Hospital researchers, there was found to be a three-fold increase of eye infections in contact lens wearers in southeast England over the past seven years, Science Daily reported.
“This infection is still quite rare, usually affecting 2.5 in 100,000 contact lens users per year in South East England, but it’s largely preventable. This increase in cases highlights the need for contact lens users to be aware of the risks,” said the study’s lead author, Professor John Dart of Moorfields Eye Hospital.
While anyone can become infected by AK, contact lens users are at the most risk.
Why Shouldn’t You Swim or Shower While Wearing Contact Lenses?
Swimming or showering while wearing contact lenses puts a person at risk of blindness from parasitic infection.
Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), a waterborne amoeba found around the world, can infect the cornea—the “clear window” at the front of the eye.
The amoeba can burrow into the eye, causing total vision loss within a matter of weeks.
An analysis of all incidents recorded in the past 18 years showed that 86 percent of patients had swum with their lenses in, according to a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
Contact lenses can create small abrasions in the eye, which make it easier for the amoeba to attach when the eye comes into contact with water.
As well as the risk from swimming, the scientists highlighted the risk of rinsing lenses with tap water.
Acanthamoeba, which feeds on bacteria, can be present in all forms of water, including lakes, oceans, rivers, swimming pools, hot tubs, and showers.
They can also be found in tap water and soil.
Treatment usually involves antiseptic drops that kill the amoeba, which may need to be taken every hour for the first few days, even while sleeping.
Source: Moorfields Eye Hospital