Contact lenses in the shower: a Britisher becomes blind

The daily shower is usually a relaxing time without risk for most people. But for contact lens wearers, it may be different. This is particularly the case for a 29-year-old British girl who regularly showered while keeping his lenses, until this practice causes the infection of his right eye, leaving him one-eyed, despite the treatments and operations performed thereafter.

Nick Humphreys, 29, of Shropshire, England, usually keeps his contact lenses in the shower, unaware that this practice can increase the risk of eye infections. In 2018, he contracted keratitis in Acanthamoeba , a rare parasitic infection of the cornea. " If I had known how dangerous it was to wear contact lenses in the shower, I would never have asked my doctor, " says Humphreys.

Contact lenses and water: a higher risk of eye infection

The Acanthamoeba is a unicellular amoeba commonly found in water, soil and air, according to the Control Center for Disease Prevention (CDC). Lentil wearers are at risk of contracting this infection if they adopt certain practices, such as cleaning lenses with tap water, swimming or showering while keeping their lenses.

Acanthamoeba observed under a microscope. It exists in two forms: active (left) and dormant (right). Credits: Wikimedia

This amoeba has a particular affinity for contact lens surfaces, which means that lenses can be " a vehicle for hosting and transmitting microorganisms to the eye, " write the authors of a 2010 article. on the subject published in the journal Journal of Optometry .

But when Humphreys started wearing lenses in 2013 to be able to play sports without glasses, he was not aware of this risk in the shower. He often took a shower with his contact lenses after a morning workout. " I did not think about it at the time. I was never told not to wear contact lenses in the shower. There is no warning on the packaging, and my opticians have never mentioned a risk.

From infectious keratitis to blindness

After being diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis in early 2018, eye drops were given to him for the infection, but a few months later, he suddenly became blind in the right eye. He was then prescribed a more powerful medicine, which had to be applied to his eyes every hour, even at night. Humphreys remained confined to his home and felt intense pain in his right eye.

"My eyes hurt too much and the only time I left was to go to the hospital ." He later underwent two operations of the right eye, the first to strengthen the tissues of the cornea and the second to protect the cornea with a tissue transplant from a fetal placenta. This procedure is known as amniotic membrane grafting. Although his infection is resolved, Humphreys remains blind in the right eye.

He should have a cornea transplant in August. This operation replaces damaged corneal tissue with healthy corneal tissue from a deceased donor. Humphreys is now working with the charity Fight for Sighth to raise awareness of the risks of showering or swimming with contact lenses. " It's crucial that people know that this is a reality and that it can happen because of something as simple as taking a shower, " concludes Humphreys.


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