What Is Acanthamoeba Keratitis?

Acanthamoeba are naturally occurring amoeba (tiny, one-celled animals), commonly found in water sources, such as tap water, well water, swimming pools, hot tubs, and soil and sewage systems. A dirty contact lens case also can be a source of Acanthamoeba infection.

If these tiny parasites infect the eye, Acanthamoeba keratitis results. Acanthamoeba eye infections in contact lens wearers are rare but serious. If untreated, Acanthamoeba keratitis will lead to severe pain and possible vision loss or blindness.

To avoid Acanthamoeba keratitis and all contact lens-related eye infections, be sure to carefully follow the lens care, handling and wearing instructions you receive from your optometrist.

What Causes Acanthamoeba Keratitis?

Factors and activities that increase the risk of contracting Acanthamoeba keratitis include using contaminated tap or well water on contact lenses, using homemade solutions to store and clean contacts, wearing contact lenses in a hot tub and swimming or showering while wearing lenses. If you have eye pain, eye redness that won’t clear up with drops, blurry vision, light sensitivity, excessive tearing or feel as if there is something in your eye, you should consult an Eye Care Professional.

Acanthamoeba is a single-cell organism that exists in nature in two forms: an active, growing form and a dormant, stress-resistant cyst.

First diagnosed in 1973, an estimated eighty-five percent of U.S. Acanthamoeba keratitis cases affect contact lens users, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other researchers associate recent increases in contact lens-related eye infections with the introduction of “no-rub” lens care systems that may result in less effective contact lens cleaning and disinfection. But regardless of the cause of the increase, Acanthamoeba can be killed easily, especially when rubbed off the lens surface during cleaning. In the end, good contact lens hygiene is the best way to prevent Acanthamoeba keratitis.

How Do You Know if You Have Acanthamoeba Keratitis?

Symptoms of Acanthamoeba keratitis include red eyes and eye pain after removing your contact lenses, as well as tearing, light sensitivity, blurred vision and a feeling that something is in your eye.

Advanced Acanthamoeba keratitis can cause a white “ring” to cover the iris, as well as redness in the white of the eye.

With these types of symptoms, you should always contact your Eye Care Professional. But keep in mind that Acanthamoeba keratitis is often difficult to diagnose at first because its symptoms are similar to pink eye symptoms and those of other eye infections.

Diagnosis of keratitis often occurs once it is determined that the condition is resistant to antibiotics used to manage other infections. Ring-like ulceration of your corneal tissue may also occur.

Unfortunately, if not promptly treated, Acanthamoeba keratitis can cause permanent vision loss or require a corneal transplant to recover lost vision.

How You Can Reduce the Risk of Getting Acanthamoeba Keratitis

There are several easy ways to significantly reduce the chance of getting this sight-threatening condition, in fact, any contact lens-related eye infection:

  1. Follow your Eye Care Professional’s recommendations regarding the care of your contact lenses. Use only products that he or she recommends.
  2. Never use tap water with your contact lenses. The FDA has recommended that contact lenses should not be exposed to water of any kind.
  3. Do not swim, shower or use a hot tub while wearing contacts. If you do decide to wear your lenses while swimming, wear airtight swim goggles over them.
  4. Soak your lenses in fresh disinfecting solution every night. Don’t use a wetting solution or saline solution that isn’t intended for disinfection.
  5. Always wash your hands before handling your lenses.
  6. Always clean your contacts immediately upon removal (unless you are wearing disposable contact lenses, replaced daily). To clean your lenses, rub the lenses under a stream of multipurpose solution — even if using a “no-rub” solution — and store them in a clean case filled with a fresh (not “topped off”) multipurpose or disinfecting solution.
Remember to also clean and sterilise your lens cases, to avoid Acanthamoeba contamination.
Patient with Acanthamoeba keratitis. Note the ring-like stromel infiltrate and lack of bulbous dendrites. The latter are symptoms of herpes simplex.
Share this on Facebook: