A grandmother has lost an eye after it became infected when she wore contact lenses while having a shower.
Marie Mason, 54, from Sapcote, Leicestershire, developed an infection in her left eye after a microscopic amoeba, present in tap water, got between her contact lens and cornea.
She first noticed something was wrong when it stared to feel like something was constantly stuck in her eye in 2015.
After her vision deteriorated, she went to the opticians who immediately sent her to hospital.
Mason was told she had a type of bacteria, Acanthamoeba Keratitis, living inside her eye, which was causing her the problems.
Acanthamoeba Keratitis is a rare infection that is caused by a microscopic, free-living organism which can cause permanent visual impairment or blindness.
Mason wore 30 day contact lenses, showering in them, and as the infection can be found in tap water, experts believe that could have led to her eye becoming infected.
Over time the infection multiplied, feasting on Mason's cornea and causing her vision to deteriorate.
"I had to stop work, because I had to put eye drops in every half an hour and it was so painful," she explains of the impact.
"I also had to go to the hospital two to three times a week, sometimes even more and often ended up in eye casualty if I got a flare-up.
After five years of trying various medications and following a series of unsuccessful operations including three cornea transplants, her eye had to be removed.
Thankfully, Mason has been able to adjust to losing the sight in her left eye and two years on, her life is almost back to normal.
She is now back working as an admin assistant, working for her husband Jonathan, 50, and volunteers with her church.
"My life is OK now, I haven't gone back to work to the place I left, but I am working and I do a lot of voluntary work," she explains.
"My life is different, but it's not necessarily a bad change."
Watch: Reusable contact lenses 'more than triple risk' of rare eye infection
Mason says the only thing she's not gone back to is driving.
"I stopped driving quite early on in the journey because I wasn't comfortable with it," she explains.
"And I haven't got the confidence to go back to it."
She also says she does sometimes struggle with simple, everyday tasks such as walking down the street.
"When you've got people whizzing by you, it makes you jump because you don't expect it," she explains.
Mason is now calling for better warnings on contact lens packs about the risks of contamination, warning users to not wear lenses in the shower and touch them after washing their hands.
"I don't want anything to think that I'm asking people to not wear contact lenses because I'm not asking that at all," she explains.
"I would just like the manufactures to put more warnings on the packaging about water and contact lenses.
"I just don't want anyone else to go through what I have," she adds.
Why you should avoid showering in contact lenses
While it may be tempting for convenience, Tina Patel optician at Feel Good Contacts says wearing your contact lenses in the shower or while swimming or with wet hands can have sight threatening implications.
"The reason mixing contact lenses and watersis such a no go is that it risks the contraction of Acanthamoeba Keratitis if contaminated water comes into contact with the eye," she explains.
Patel says there are some things that will increase the risk of Acanthamoeba Keratitis
- wearing contacts lenses when in the shower
- wearing contact lenses while swimming
- using non-medical approved contact lens solutions
- storing your lenses in water
- failing to wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling contact lenses
- failing to disinfect your lenses effectively and following an inadequate cleaning regime.
In order to prevent Acanthamoeba Keratitis Patel recommends practising good hygiene and an effective lens care routine while wearing contact lenses.
"It is also important to listen carefully to the advice from your optician and always follow their instructions on lens wear and care," she adds.
To avoid infection with soft contact lenses
· Wash your hands thoroughly with mild soap and water. Dry your hands thoroughly with a lint-free towel before handling contact lenses
· Only use the lens care system which has been recommended to you by your optician and do not mix with other solutions
· Also, note the different purposes for different solutions. Saline solution, for example, is not appropriate for disinfecting, and can only be used for rinsing and short-term storing
· Use fresh solution each time you clean your lenses and contact lens case
· Don't sleep in lenses unless they are extended wear lenses, prescribed to you by your optician
· Don’t ever wet contact lenses with water or saliva
· Never use lenses that were worn by someone else
· Gently rub and rinse contact lenses after removing them, before putting them back into their case
· Replace your lens case at least every three months and ideally monthly
· Do not swim with contact lenses
· Remember the 3 S’s – don’t swim, sleep or shower with your contact lenses in
What is Acanthamoeba Keratitis?
Acanthamoeba Keratitis is a very painful and serious eye condition affecting the cornea. Although it's a rare infection, it is more common amongst contact lens users.
Patel says it can have severe complications for sufferers, resulting in visual impairments or permanent vision loss. In severe cases a corneal transplant may be necessary.
What are Acanthamoeba?
Acanthamoeba is naturally occurring, free-living amoeba (single-celled organisms). Acanthamoeba lives in sources such as tap water, sewer systems, soil, swimming pools, hot tubs and saunas.
"When we encounter Acanthamoeba, in general, it doesn't cause any harm; however, when amoeba infects the cornea, this results in Acanthamoeba Keratitis," Patel explains.
What are the symptoms of Acanthamoeba Keratitis?
Acanthamoeba Keratitis can be difficult to initially detect as the symptoms are very similar to other common eye infections and often can be misdiagnosed.
Some common symptoms include:
· Red eyes
· Increased sensitivity to light
· Extreme eye pain
· Blurred vision
· The constant feeling of something in the eye
· Excessive tearing
A ring-shaped ulcer can also appear in later phases of the infection.
If you experience any of these symptoms, Patel advises removing your contact lenses and consulting your optician immediately, who will advise you what to do next.
If your optician is not contactable at that time then you must go to your nearest eye casualty department.
Is Acanthamoeba Keratitis treatable?
Acanthamoeba is much more challenging to treat than other microbial infections. Antibiotics cannot treat Acanthamoeba.
"Procedures are mostly done by trial and error depending on what the patient responds to," Patel explains. "For this reason, an early diagnosis is incredibly important.
"One method of treatment is a high dosage of topical antimicrobial agents on the area of the infection site. Cysts can become highly resistant to therapy, so a potent combination of substances is required."
Additional reporting SWNS.