People who wear reusable contact lenses are nearly four times more likely to develop a rare eye infection that can steal vision, a study has found.

The British scientists behind the study also warned that wearing lenses in the shower, swimming pool and while sleeping could increase the risk.

In the study, more than 200 daily or reusable contact lens wearers were admitted to clinics with eye infections or other conditions.

They found Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) – which can inflame the surface of the eye and lead to blindness – was more common among people who had the same lenses in and out.

The infection is triggered when the microorganisms get on the contact lenses through a contaminated solution or dirty hands and then enter the eye through small tears.

Patients experience eye pain, redness, blurred vision, clouding of vision, and in severe cases may end up losing their vision. The treatment includes antibiotics that should be placed directly on the surface of the eye for a period of six months to one year.

Above is a cloudy eye that can be triggered by an Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) infection.  About 85 percent of cases are among contact lens wearers (stock image).

Above is a cloudy eye that can be triggered by an Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) infection. About 85 percent of cases are among contact lens wearers (stock image).

Acanthamoeba keratitis: An eye infection that can make you blind

What is Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK)?

This is an infection of the cornea or surface of the eye caused by microorganisms.

How can I treat the disease?

It is very common among contact lenses, but it can infect anyone.

The disease is triggered when the microorganism gets into your eye or by putting contact lenses into your eyes with dirty hands, or when you take a shower or swim in the pool while wearing the lenses.

Then it enters the eye through the tiny tears on the surface, and triggers the infection.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include blurred vision, a cloudy or dirty-looking cornea, eye pain, eye redness, and watery eyes.

These can take several days to weeks to appear after infection.

Will it endanger my vision?

If left untreated, the infection can lead to permanent vision loss and total blindness, the CDC says.

Other complications include painful eye inflammation and partial vision loss.

What is the treatment?

The patient is given an antiseptic to help clear the infection from the eye. This is applied directly to the face.

This should be taken from six months to a year.

Patients may also be prescribed antibiotics, and in some cases, surgery may be required.

Source: CDC

Professor John Dart, ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, UK and who led the study, said: ‘We have seen an increase in Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) in recent years.

‘[But] Although infection is still rare, it is preventable and a public health response.

He added: “Previous studies have linked AK to wearing contact lenses in hot tubs, swimming pools or lakes, and here we’ve added showers to the list, underscoring that any water exposure should be avoided while wearing lenses.”

‘Contact lens packaging should include information about lens safety and risk, such as “no water” stickers on each case, especially as many people buy their lenses online without talking to a healthcare professional.’

In the study – it was pushed in the magazine Eye treatment -, scientists checked hospital records from an ER department in south-east England for patients with daily or reusable contact lenses.

They found 83 cases of AK seen in the ward between January 2011 and August 2014.

They then checked the records of contact lens wearers for another illness for the next year unrelated to the infection and found 122 cases.

Each completed a questionnaire about contact lens type and daily activities.

The results showed that only 20 (24 percent) of the 83 AK cases were daily disposable lens wearers.

But the remaining 63 (76 percent) used soft or rigid disposable lenses.

Statistics show that the risk of developing an AK is 284% higher in recycled lenses compared to daily lenses.

The scientists also investigated whether certain activities made the infection worse.

Of the 20 AK subjects who answered the question whether they wore lenses in the shower, 12 (60 percent) admitted to doing so.

By comparison, it was 25 of 66 (37 percent) in the other group.

In the paper, the scientists said that users of reusable contact lenses are at risk because they are more likely to contaminate their lenses.

He said how to reduce the risk, lenses should not be worn overnight and the stored solution should not be contaminated.

Fewer than 100 Americans suffer from an AK infection each year.

But scientists warn that the price is increasing, more than 85 percent of them were found only among users of contact lenses.

Symptoms of infection take several days to weeks to appear, but include blurred vision, eye pain, and eye redness.

The eye may begin to look cloudy to others and even feel like something is inside.

Patients are usually given antibiotics, which should be treated to treat the eye.

However, they may be prescribed antibiotics to help fight the infection and may even undergo surgery.

An estimated 45 million people in the United States alone wear contact lenses.

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