A young woman who suffered agonising pain for seven years, which rendered her bed bound for 18 months, has discovered her symptoms were caused by an eye parasite.
Skye Wheeler, 21, from Camborne, Cornwall, was just 14 years old when she came home from a dance class with a headache and the pain never went away.
Over time it got worse and soon it was so bad that she was left “rocking in agony”, was too weak to climb the stairs and ended up bed-bound.
Wheeler, who is a qualified pharmacy technician, is now virtually housebound, has to use a wheelchair and suffers constant pain and exhaustion.
The cause of her condition has now been revealed to be a rare eye infection called Acanthamoeba Keratitis, which was triggered by a parasite that burrowed into her eye, though it isn’t known how or where she picked up the parasite.
“My body does not make enough collagen and that has resulted in the ligaments in my neck and spine becoming loose and unable to spring back like an elastic band,” she explains.
“This has led to them not being able to support and protect my brainstem and spinal cord.
“As a result, the weight of my head is slowly sinking onto my neck, compressing my brainstem.”
Skye needs an operation in September to make her head, neck and spinal junction stable. Without the operation her symptoms could worsen and prove fatal.
“Surgery is the only proven treatment for advanced cases like mine and should stop the neurological compression and damage,” she explains.
“The operation and associated medical costs come to £40,000 so I’ve started a JustGiving page in the hope that enough money can be raised for me to go ahead.
“It really will change my life.”
What is Acanthamoeba keratitis?
According to Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) is an infection of the cornea, the clear ‘window’ at the front of the eye, that can be very painful.
The infection is caused by a microscopic organism called Acanthamoeba, which is common in nature and is usually found in bodies of water (lakes, oceans and rivers), as well as domestic tap water, swimming pools, hot tubs, soil and air.
AK is most common in people who wear contact lenses (around 85% of cases of AK have been associated with contact lens wear), but anyone with a corneal injury is susceptible to developing the infection.
While relatively uncommon, studies suggest that AK affects around 2 in 100,000 contact lens wearers per year in the UK.
The biggest risk factor for contracting AK is exposure to water (generally through swimming or showering in contact lenses, rinsing or storing lenses in water and handling lenses with unwashed or wet hands).
You’re also more at risk if you practice poor contact lens hygiene, including not disinfecting lenses properly and not cleaning and changing contact lens cases regularly.
Typically treatment is with antiseptic drops, including PHMB, Chlorhexidine, Brolene or Hexamidine, but you may also be given anti-inflammatories or painkillers to help with the pain.
Additional reporting SWNS.