Woman's Eyeballs Are Invaded by Amoebas: The Scary Science Behind Leaving Contacts in Way Too Long

As one who is barely able to endure wearing contacts for mere hours, I’ve never understood/been jealous of those who can sleep in contacts, let alone leave them in for days straight. Well it turns out that’s just the beginning of contact marathon-wearing. In one harrowing case making the news rounds, a Taiwanese student left her contacts in for six months straight. And the results are actually more terrible than you might imagine: Amoebas have eaten her eyeballs and straight-up rendered her blind.

Infection Redux

Let’s examine the cringe-worthy course of events that got poor Lian Kao to this extreme place of eye un-health. Six months of constant contact wear meant six months of reduced oxygen flow to her eyes. That lack of oxygen created a host of interactive problems:

First, tiny wounds developed in her eyes.

Next, bacteria invaded the wounds and lived happily.

Then, parasites that feed on bacteria came to the party. Because Kao also swam during this period, she greatly heightened her exposure to these organisms, which often live in pool water.

Once the parasite colony was firmly established, the organisms began burrowing into her cornea to consume the bacteria living farther inside as well. The result: irrevocable cornea destruction.

The Hard Facts

One might wonder why—why?!—she didn’t take her contacts out at the beginning of the infection, and seek medical help. The condition—Acanthamoebic keratitis—can cause pain, redness and blurry vision. But unfortunately, the pain may not be intense enough until the parasites have already done significant damage. And once the infection has taken hold, it can be difficult  to eradicate. So she was probably in a real bad way by the time her eyes were especially bothering her. But still, six months? That's some serious hygiene carelessness, girl.

So what is the takeaway for the rest of us? First there’s the obvious: Regularly take out your contacts. It’s probably a good idea to take them out before swimming (as in this case), and even for showers, since parasites can reside even in the water you use to otherwise purify your body. Also, throw out spent contacts after a month or so. Finally, infection can also come from not properly cleaning contacts. So disinfect those suckers.

May your eyes live long and prosper, and remain ever amoeba-free.

Image: ThinkStock


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