Avoiding Contact Lens Infections

An outbreak of a rare, potentially blinding eye infection has hit the UK.

This infection, Acanthamoeba keratitis, tends to be linked to poor contact lens hygiene. Although current cases are spiking in the southeast of England, it’s possible to contract this infection – and infections like this – just about anywhere.

What is keratitis?

Keratitis in an inflammation of the cornea. Although not all cases of keratitis happen because of improper contact lens care, many of them do. Keratitis is also known as a corneal ulcer.

The current outbreak is a relatively rare variation of the condition caused by Acanthamoeba, a genus of amoebae found in soil, fresh water, and other habitats. In Acanthamoeba keratitis, the amoeba becomes stuck in the cornea and eats away at the eye, potentially resulting in vision loss.

Less serious (and more common) types of keratitis include viral, bacterial, and fungal. All forms can result in vision loss if left untreated.

What are symptoms of keratitis?

Symptoms of keratitis include:

  • Red eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Eye pain
  • Tears or discharge
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Feeling like something is in your eye

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your eye doctor immediately.

How do I avoid keratitis?

Keratitis can be caused by injuries, viruses, or contaminated water. It can also be caused by failing to follow proper contact lens hygiene. In fact, keratitis is the most common infection associated with wearing contact lenses.

To avoid contact lens infections:

  • Don’t sleep in your contact lenses
  • Clean your lens cases regularly
  • Rub your lenses with solution while cleaning them
  • Never reuse or top off contact lens solution
  • Don’t wear your contacts in the shower, bath, hot tub, pool, or ocean
  • Replace your contact lens case at least three times a year

How is keratitis treated?

If you suspect that you’re suffering from keratitis, your doctor will perform a detailed eye examination. Your doctor may also take a sample of your tears or corneal cells to determine the best course of treatment.

  • Noninfectious keratitismay not involve any treatment. However, severe cases may require prescription eye drops or an eye patch.
  • Bacterial keratitisis typically treated through antibacterial eyedrops. Severe cases may require oral antibiotics.
  • Fungal keratitisis treated through antifungal eyedrops and oral antifungal medication.
  • Viral keratitismay benefit from antiviral eyedrops and oral antiviral medications. Unfortunately, viral cases of keratitis may reoccur despite treatment.
  • Acanthamoeba keratitis should be treated with antibiotic eyedrops. This is the most serious form of keratitis, and it may be resistant to treatment.

If keratitis causes permanent damage to your cornea, you may need a cornea transplant.

Although most people think that contact lenses are a safe alternative to LASIK, it’s important to keep in mind that anything can harm your eye when you fail to take proper precautions. Intermountain Eye Centers encourages our patients to follow proper contact lens hygiene and receive regular comprehensive eye examinations. For more information about how to keep your eyes safe, contact us today.

Healthy and Safe Swimming Week

The week before Memorial Day marks Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, an annual awareness week that aims to prevent drowning, pool chemical injuries, and illness outbreaks.

This year, Intermountain Eye Centers encourages our patients to pay special attention to their contact lens habits, particularly while they’re swimming.

Is it safe to wear contact lenses in water?

No! If you’re thinking about dipping into a pool, lake, or ocean this summer, you should remove your contact lenses first.

Water – even seemingly clean water – can contain countless microbes and viruses. Most of the time, your eyes naturally fight these invaders by blinking them away. When you’re wearing contact lenses, these foreign organisms can get stuck between your eye and the lens, leading to irritation, infections, or even conditions that can permanently harm your vision.

  • Acanthamoeba keratitis: Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare, but serious condition in which an organism known as Acanthamoeba infects the cornea, leading to inflammation and potential corneal scarring. If not caught early, people with this condition may need a corneal transplant to recover their lost vision.
  • Corneal ulcer: A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea, typically caused by an infection. Symptoms of corneal ulcers include pus or discharge, blurred vision, redness, severe pain, and a persistent sensation of having something in your eye. Some people may also notice a white spot on their cornea.

In addition, water can dislodge rigid gas permeable contact lenses or cause soft contact lenses to tighten around the eye. Both instances can lead to significant discomfort or worse – scratches on the surface of your eye.

What should I do if I swim in my contacts?

If water gets in your eye while swimming with contact lenses, you should immediately remove, clean, and disinfect the lenses. You should also rinse your eyes with rewetting drops or artificial tears.

Some doctors recommend throwing them away entirely. If you frequently swim while wearing contact lenses, daily disposable lenses may be the safest – and the most economical – option.

The best way to swim while still wearing your contacts is to invest in waterproof swim goggles. A good pair of goggles can protect your eyes from waterborne contaminants, as well as reduce the risk of your contacts dislodging or scratching your eyes. It’s also possible to purchase prescription swimming goggles that are custom-designed to correct your vision.

When should I see my doctor?

If you go swimming without removing your contact lenses, you might experience some unpleasant symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Unusual discharge
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately remove and disinfect your contact lenses. If these symptoms last for more than a few hours, it’s time to contact your eye doctor.

Do you have any other questions about swimming with your contact lenses? Contact Intermountain Eye Centers today, and we’d be happy to discuss any questions you might have.