Buchanan Optometrists

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A parasite was eating my eyeball - Acanthamoeba

‘A parasite was eating my eyeball’ was a news item that appeared in the papers and online this week about the perils of contact lenses. A student, 19, had contracted an eye infection called Acanthamoeba. Which is caused when a parasite, common in tap water and soil infects the eye. Without treatment the infection can cause blindness so the poor lady in question had to administer drops to her eyes every hour for a week- hence she barely slept at all.

Acanthamoeba is a common parasite and thankfully rarely causes infection. It tends to strike contact lens wearers as if the lens is exposed to the parasite it is held on the eye all day, rather than being washed out as would be the case if we got water in our eyes when washing our face. Contact lens wearers who have a dry or scratched eye are also particularly susceptible to infection as the parasite can work its way into the cornea. Infection is pretty rare and infects around 2 in 100,000 contact lens wearers per year in the UK, which is around 20 times less than the number of daily wear soft contact lens wearers with bacterial infections.

If you are sensible with your contact lenses and follow this simple advice the risk of infection is very low. Here’s what you need to know:


Acanthamoeba can be hard to diagnose in the initial stages as it often resembles a bacterial infection. If you have symptoms or pain that persists you must always tell your optometrist immediately.

Risk Factors

Lens Care Guide

You should remove your lenses immediately if you experience any of the following:

If the discomfort or problem stops when you take the lens out, inspect the lens for damage, dirt or a foreign body.  Discard the lens and insert a fresh one.

If the problem continues, remove the lenses and consult your eyecare practitioner immediately.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment is essential to avoid serious damage to your eyes.