A new study has detected a UK outbreak of a rare but preventable eye infection that can cause blindness…

If you wear contacts, be extra careful about your contact lens hygiene.

Research has found a new outbreak of a rare but preventable eye infection – Acanthamoeba keratitis – that can cause blindness in contact lens wearers.

The research team found a threefold increase in Acanthamoeba keratitis since 2011 in south-east England.

What is Acanthamoeba keratitis?

Acanthamoeba keratitis is an eye disease that causes the front surface of the eye, the cornea, to become painful and inflamed, due to infection by Acanthamoeba, a cyst-forming microorganism.

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The most severely affected patients (a quarter of the total) have less than 25% of vision or become blind following the disease and face prolonged treatment. Overall 25% of people affected require corneal transplants to treat the disease or restore vision.

Anyone can be infected, but contact lens users face the highest risk, due to a combination of increased susceptibility to infection – for reasons not fully established – as a result of contact lens wear and contamination of lens cases.

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What to avoid?

Reusable contact lens wearers with the eye infection are more likely to have used an ineffective contact lens solution, have contaminated their lenses with water or reported poor contact lens hygiene, according to the findings.

Acanthamoeba is more commonly found in the UK than in other countries, likely due to higher levels found in domestic (as opposed to mains) water supplies, so that water contamination of contact lenses is of particular concern in the UK.

“People who wear reusable contact lenses need to make sure they thoroughly wash and dry their hands before handling contact lenses, and avoid wearing them while swimming, face washing or bathing. Daily disposable lenses, which eliminate the need for contact lens cases or solutions, may be safer and we are currently analysing our data to establish the risk factors for these,” said lead author, Professor John Dart (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust).

Source: University College London via www.sciencedaily.com

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.