I almost went blind after a parasite bore into my eye after swimming in contact lenses

A TERRIFIED mum was left fearing she’d go blind in one eye after a parasite bore into her left eye.

Lauren (who doesn’t want her surname disclosed) began to suffer from a red, sore left eye on Christmas Day.

An Australian mother-of-two struck down by a parasite was told she would never see out of her left eye again
An Australian mother-of-two struck down by a parasite was told she would never see out of her left eye again
Seven News/Channel 7
While docs don't know how she contracted the bug, Lauren says she "must have" gone swimming wearing contacts
While docs don’t know how she contracted the bug, Lauren says she “must have” gone swimming wearing contacts
Seven News/Channel 7

She put it down to her contact lenses playing up and thought no more about it.

But just two weeks later, the Sydney mum-of-two was told by docs that a parasite had got into her eye.

After multiple trips to the chemist and her GP, Lauren woke up in excruciating pain – unable to open her eye.

“It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” Lauren said.

“It was excruciating. I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t open my eye, I had to pry it open.”

It was then that she demanded her husband take her to the eye hospital.

There, Lauren was told by medics that she had ulcers on her eye but docs couldn’t say how they’d come to be there.

However, samples from her eye later tested positive for Acanthamoeba keratitis – caused by a tiny parasite found in water.

What is Acanthamoeba keratitis?

Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) is an infection of the cornea.

The infection is caused by a parasite that is usually found in bodies of water as well as taps, swimming pools, hot tubs, soil and air.

Many different species of Acanthamoeba exist. Acanthamoeba organisms do not generally cause harm to humans (we come into contact with them when we wash, swim, drink water etc), but they can cause a serious eye disease if they infect the cornea.

Symptoms can include:

  • eye pain
  • eye redness (pink eye)
  • watery eyes
  • light sensitivity
  • feeling like there’s something in your eye
  • blurred vision
  • ring-like pattern around your cornea

To avoid Acanthamoeba keratitis, never wear your contact lenses when you’re coming into contact with water.

Never wash contacts with tap water and never swim, shower or use a hot tub while wearing them.

Always clean your contacts in lens solution the moment you take them out, or use daily disposables rather than monthlies.

Pregnancy scare

It was at the hospital that Lauren found out that she was pregnant, during what she called “a waking nightmare”.

What should have been one of the happiest moments of her life quickly turned hellish, when docs told Lauren that the strong dosage of eye drops she was taking would probably result in foetal mutation.

“I was a mess,” Lauren told Seven News.

“The worst part was there were no definite answers.

“I would ask ‘what’s going to happen?’ and they would just reply with ‘maybe this or maybe that’.”

Miracle recovery

But, miraculously, Lauren made a complete recovery and was cleared of the parasite in June – six months after her nightmare began.

She has no loss of sight and her baby is totally healthy.

Docs still don’t know what caused the parasite but Lauren admits that she “must have” gone swimming with her contacts in – although she doesn’t remember doing so.

“All of the pain and the risk of having permanent eye damage is not worth it,” Lauren said.

“The whole experience was pure pain, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

Just the latest case

Earlier this week, we reported the tragic story of Nick Humphreys, who has been left partially blind after showering in his contact lenses.

He’s now working with the charity Fight for Sight, to raise awareness of the danger of using contact lenses in the shower or while swimming.

He said: “I can honestly say if I’d had the slightest idea that this was even a remote possibility I would never have worn contacts in the first place. It’s crucial that people out there know this is a reality and it can happen because of something as simple as getting in the shower.

He said: “I’ve lost 18 months of my life because of something as simple as showering with contacts in. If I get my sight back I’ll never wear contacts again.

Nick has been left with the possibility of permenant blindness in one eye after showering wearing contacts
Nick has been left with the possibility of permanent blindness in one eye after showering wearing contacts
PA Real Life

He’s now having to wait for a cornea transplant and vows to never wear contacts again.

According to a poll by YouGov for the sight charity, 56 per cent of contact lens wearers wear their contacts for longer than the recommended 12 hours a day, with 54 per cent saying they’d swum or showered in them.

47 per cent said they had slept with contacts in, and 15 per cent said they’d put their contacts in their mouth to “clean” or lubricate them.


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