The harrowing story of the British journalist losing his sight in his right eye is certainly terrifying for anyone who has been negligent about contact lens hygiene. He contracted a rare parasitic infection, probably due to the shower with his contacts. The costly mistake required over 18 months of intensive treatment, and there is the possibility that it can never be seen again from the right eye.
Nick Humphreys, a 29-year-old senior journalist at the local Shropshire Star, told his story in a column for the outlet this week.
According to Humphreys, the problems began in January 2018. His right eye, which had remained visibly dry for a week, became incredibly sensitive to light and full of pain. After the over-the-counter eye drops did nothing, he visited an ophthalmologist, where an ulcer was discovered. A visit to the hospital later revealed the culprit of his symptoms: a corneal infection caused by a protozoan called Acanthamoeba.
"Lurking in our water and soil is a parasitic insect that can destroy the eye and leave you blind," wrote Humphreys.
His treatment of disinfectant eye drops initially went well, but in March 2018 he completely lost his sight in the right eye; the infection was back. He spent the next six months in agonizing pain, barely managing to leave the house or even read. He undertook a time-consuming treatment regime in which he had to use eye drops every hour.
As his condition worsened, Humphreys eventually received experimental surgery in which eye layers were detached so that doctors could expose him to a massive dose of vitamins and ultraviolet radiation (the procedure, called cross-linking, emerged as a last resort treatment for cases of Acanthamoeba keratitis that has not responded to drugs in recent years).
Fortunately, the intervention seemed to do the trick in treating the infection. But Humphreys still needed another surgery months later to repair and recover from the complications of his extensive medical treatment. Now, 18 months later, a full corneal transplant is scheduled for August (along with cataract surgery) which should eventually restore at least one vision to the right eye.
"It is essential that people out there know that this is a reality and can happen because of something as simple as a shower."
For those of you who wear contacts, it's worth noting this Acanthamoeba keratitis is rare. Our eyes are not generally where the amoeba likes to call home. But it looks like it's becoming more common in some areas of the world, such as in the UK. When a person wears contacts, it makes them susceptible to infection from this insect, because the lenses can transfer the contaminated germ or water directly to the eyes, as well as trap them there.
Acanthamoeba it is abundantly found in the water and in the soil, so there is no sure way to understand how Humphreys could have contracted it. But the vast majority of its victims are wearers of contact lenses – as much as 85 percent, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The main known risk factors for contact wearers include showering or swimming with lenses, washing contact with tap water or mistreatment while slipping them into the eyes or storing them for the night. Even lenses left unused for too long periods of time can provide more opportunities for infection.
Humphreys, for his part, hoped that reviewing his experience could serve as a warning to others.
"I can honestly say if I had the slightest idea that this was a remote possibility, I would have never had worn out contacts in the first place. It is essential that the people out there know that this is a reality and can happen because of something as simple as shower ", he wrote.
It is also pushing contact lens manufacturers to include more explicit warning labels for their products.