Contact lenses are very helpful, because they allow those who use it to see clearly even without eye glasses or for cosmetic reasons. However, one has to be extremely careful in cleaning and handling contact lenses, because there are cases wherein it might cause heavy damage! This is what happened to 18-year-old Jessica Greaney, an English college freshman who almost got blind after a parasite started eating her eyeball, all because of a contaminated lens.
At first, Jessica Greaney thought she only had a minor eye infection when her eyelid kept drooping and her eye sore.
When she went to the hospital, doctors initially said it was an ulcer. But by the end of the week, even with medication, it continued to worsen!
Her eye was bulging, and it looked like a huge red golf ball. “It was swollen, and extremely painful, and they admitted me into hospital.” Jessica said.
To diagnose the real problem, doctors had to scrape and test a layer of Jessica’s eye. But they were shocked to find out what really cause her severe eye infection.
To their horror it was a parasite called Acanthamoeba Keratitis, thriving in her eye!
Jessica underwent a torturous treatment to kill the parasite and to stop it from continuously eating its way to her eyeball.
She was not allowed to sleep for an entire week, so nurses could give her eye drops round the clock.
“It was not dissimilar from Chinese water torture. After the fourth day, not only was I going insane, and even crying every five minutes, nothing was changing. This parasite was still eating my eye and even worse, my immune system was shutting down because of my lack of sleep.”
Good thing that the treatment worked and Jessica was discharged from the hospital eventually with her healed eye.
But she had to continue putting 22 droplets a day to reduce swelling and redness. Even on nights out, she carries a refrigerated bag for all her medicines. But for her, this is still better than being blind, paralyzed or dying from a parasite!
What is Acanthameoba and how did she get it?
Acanthameoba is said to be found in soil, freshwater, and seawater – it lives in areas where there are limescale and bacteria. It can also live in tap water. In Jessica’s case, her contact lens got infected when she left it by the sink and got splashed with tap water. As a result, the parasite made its way into her eye and started eating into her cornea, developing an eye infection. It is suggested not to use tap water to clean contact lenses.
The young lady says, “I got my infection by just leaving my contact lenses near my sink, in a glass of solution,” she said. “I want to raise awareness about this parasite and tell people they need to be very careful with their contact lenses.”
“Apparently, water has tons of different types of bacteria and the Acanthamoeba just happens to be one of them,” Jessica explained. If so much as a droplet of water gets into contact with the lens, problems can occur.”
Acanthameoba lives in water and anyone can catch it so don’t fall for the misconception that you can only catch it if you don’t keep your lenses clean. However, it’s more common for contact lens wearers to get the parasite because it can be easily trapped between the lens and your eyeball if you shower or swim with your lenses in, or just by a simple splash of tap water. People are often exposed to Acanthameoba but normally our immune system can stop the parasite before it takes hold of the body.
Jessica was fortunate, despite her torturous treatment, that the parasite was stopped in time. Otherwise, she could have been blind, paralysed, or dead. Please do share this article and help spread awareness.