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Acanthamoeba

Category: Vision Health Concern

Published: 2016-10-12

Acanthamoeba are tiny amoeba like parasites found in water sources such as tap water, well water, hot tubs and soil or sewage systems. Eye infections can occur when contact is made with these parasites and is usually due to the improper care of contact lenses or unhygienic conditions.

Recent outbreaks of acanthamoeba infections have been noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention throughout the U.S. The use of contact lens solutions that were contaminated during the manufacturing process led to an outbreak in 2007.

The good news is that with proper contact lens care, most cases can be avoided and that contact lens solutions undergo rigorous testing to ensure a sterile products reaches market.

What Causes Acanthamoeba?

Factors that increase the risk of contracting acanthamoeba include:

  • The use of a homemade solution to store and clean contact lenses
  • Contaminated well or tap water used to wash and store lenses
  • Wearing contact lenses while  in a hot tub, swimming, or showering
  • The use of contaminated contact lens solutions
  • The use of “no-rub” lens care systems that result in less effective cleaning and disinfection
  • Reduced carcinogenic cleaning products leading to a potential increase in the spread of microbial organisms

Acanthamoeba Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms most often associated with acanthamoeba include red eyes and pain after removing contact lenses. Tearing, light sensitivity and blurred feeling are also common signs of a possible eye infection. It should be noted that acanthamoeba can be easily confused with less severe conditions like conjunctivitis or allergies. An ulceration forming a ring on the corneal tissue may also occur.

Proper eye health is always recommended when any conditions are noticed. If you experience any of the above symptoms, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with our eye care professionals at Schaeffer Eye Center.

Acanthamoeba Treatments

There are several ways to reduce the possibility of contracting acanthamoeba. Prevention is of course your best defense. Ensure that you follow your Optometrist’s instructions on how to care for your contact lenses and the case in which to store them.  Proper hygiene will go a long way in reducing the risk of having your contact lenses come into contact with harmful bacteria. Consider sterilizing your empty contact lens case once a week as a simple precaution. Avoid swimming, showering, or using a hot tub while wearing your lenses.

In some severe cases, antibiotics are not effective in the treatment of acanthamoeba, and a corneal transplant may be recommended so vision loss does not occur.