Our eyes are a delicate feature we depend on to navigate through this amazing world we live in. When our sight is affected by parasites known as amoeba, Acanthamoeba keratitis symptoms set in and can lead to permanent blindness.
This infection is common with contact lens users, and early Acanthamoeba keratitis treatment is key in preventing complications. We will study the risks and the Acanthamoeba keratitis causes.
To understand the condition, let’s break down the terminology behind the infection. Acanthamoebas are microscopic, single-celled living organisms found in water, the ground, and in the air.
Keratitis refers to an infection of the cornea, which is the transparent layer of the front of the eye. This area of the eye can also be affected by bacterial keratitis or fungal keratitis.
Acanthamoeba keratitis may be present after an injury or trauma to the eye occurs. It is a localized infection and does not spread to other parts of the body.
Causes of Acanthamoeba Keratitis
Acanthamoeba keratitis can be caused by different species of amoeba as they are found in natural and treated water sources, in the soil, and in dust that floats through the air. The reason this condition is rare among the general population with the parasites surrounding us is due to the natural antibodies we have to fight such invaders.
Acanthamoeba keratitis affects a greater cluster of contact lens users due to the high risk of trauma to the eye with constant physical contact with the eye. Trauma and injury can easily happen. It can happen to even those with the most cautious use of contact lens.
These are some of the causes of Acanthamoeba keratitis:
- Wearing the same pair of contact lenses for a prolonged period
- The use of contaminated water to wash contact lenses
- The improper storage of lenses
- Storing lenses in a dirty case
- Wearing contact lenses while showering, swimming, or in hot tubs
- Improper cleaning of contact lenses before use
- The use of homemade cleaning solutions
Symptoms of Acanthamoeba Keratitis
Acanthamoeba keratitis can often be mistaken for a viral keratitis such as viral conjunctivitis, or pink eye. These two eye infections can present similar symptoms with very different outcomes. While pink eye can resolve on its own, Acanthamoeba keratitis requires immediate treatment to prevent serious complications such as blindness.
Key signs and symptoms contact lens users need to watch for include:
- Feeling a foreign object on your eyeball such as an eyelash with none present
- Bloodshot eyes that do not clear with the absence of contact lenses
- Aching or pain of the eye
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- The secretion of tears
- Bacterial infection
- Severe headaches
Prevention Tips to Reduce the Risk of Acanthamoeba Keratitis
Everyone should take precautions when it comes to their eyes, whether you wear contact lenses or not. Throughout the day, we constantly put our eyes at risk for trauma or infection by washing our eyes, rubbing tired eyes, and applying eye makeup.
Acanthamoeba keratitis can be prevented with proper eye and hand hygiene.
- Wash and dry hands before touching your eyes or handling contact lenses and storage case
- Use antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer before contact with lenses
- Clean contact lenses with sterile lens solution
- Never use tap water to clean or store lenses
- Gently rub the contact lens in solution to remove residue and microbes
- Use the proper contact lens eye solution for cleaning and storing
- Refill contact lens case with fresh solution with each use
- Remove contact lenses before water activities such as showering or swimming
- Do not lick contact lens to clean before inserting
- Avoid the use of no-rubbing solutions as any parasites can be destroyed by rubbing the lens during cleaning
- Frequently change contact lenses
- Replace storage case every three months
- Avoid sharing contact lenses with others
- Have regular optometrist appointments
Treating Acanthamoeba Keratitis
Early detection is key to preventing serious complications of Acanthamoeba keratitis such as blindness. Severe cases may require a transplant of the cornea to treat corneal ulceration or vision loss. However, most Acanthamoeba keratitis conditions can be treated with topical applications of antimicrobial medication.
Acanthamoeba keratitis sounds worse than it is but does warrant early detection and treatment. This infection can happen to anyone as the parasite responsible can be present in any water source, the ground we walk upon, and even in the air we breathe.
It may be a rare condition but is common among those with a higher risk of trauma or injury to the eye such as with contact lens users. The symptoms mimic eye infections that are more of a mild concern. Acanthamoeba keratitis requires early detection to prevent permanent damage such as blindness.
Bennett, Edward S., “Acanthamoeba Keratitis: What Contact Lens Wearers Need To Know,” All About Vision;
https://www.allaboutvision.com/contacts/acanthamoeba-keratitis.htm, last accessed June 2, 2017.
“Acanthamoeba Keratitis FAQs,” Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention; https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/acanthamoeba/gen_info/acanthamoeba_keratitis.html, last accessed June 2, 2017.