Swimming is a sensational sport, providing a total body work out. If you are swimming in a pool or ocean, it is imperative that you never wear contacts in the water. Wearing contacts in lakes proves to be even more dangerous than wearing them in the pool or ocean. I enjoy lap swimming at my local YMCA and I never wear my contacts in the water, even underneath goggles. I will tell you why contacts and swimming don’t mix, as well as highlight the risks associated with doing so.
Kerat is the medical root word for cornea while -itis is the suffix meaning inflammation, therefore keratitis is inflammation of the cornea. The cornea is the translucent membrane covering the iris (colored part of the eye) and pupil. There are several types of keratitis and many causes, including careless contact care. Our main focus will be Acanthamoeba keratitis, since it is caused by wearing contacts in water.
Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK)
Acanthamoeba are an amoeba found in water, including hot tubs and tap water. Amoebas are a small, single celled parasite that have the ability to infect the eye. Acanthamoeba keratitis is very painful and can lead to vision loss or the need for surgical removal. Since amoebas can survive in tap water and even chlorinated water, you should never wear contacts in any water source.
AK is usually diagnosed in those who wear soft contact lenses. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) notes that each year in the U.S., one to two cases of AK occur for every million contact users. The CDC aided in taking Complete Moisture Plus, a type of contact lens disinfectant, off the market since it did not effectively inhibit amoebas. The company voluntarily recalled the solution on May 26, 2007.
What are the symptoms of AK?
Symptoms of Acanthamoeba keratitis include the following:
* Redness of the eye
* Pain after taking out contacts
* Light sensitivity
* Blurred vision
* Feeling as though something is in your eye
It is important to treat AK as soon as possible, delaying treatment may result in permanent loss of vision or require surgery to replace the cornea.
It is likely that a doctor will prescribe an antibiotic eye drop to be used as often as every 30 to 60 minutes. In some cases, an oral antibiotic may be prescribed to treat the infection. Once the infection is properly treated, vision does often improve, although permanent scarring of the cornea may occur.
Preventing AK is better than having to treat it. Simple steps can be taken to greatly decrease your chances of getting an infection. Follow these tips to prevent an infection with Acanthamoeba keratitis:
* Never wear contacts in any body of water.
* Wear prescription goggles, if needed when swimming.
* Wash your hands before handling contact lenses.
* Always immerse contacts in a disinfection solution overnight.
* Never use tap water to clean your contacts.
* Replace contact lens cases at least four times a year.
As an added precaution, you may sterilize your contact lens case weekly, by boiling it for three to five minutes.
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Rebecca completed courses in Medical Terminology, Administrative Medical Assisting and Coding and Billing. She is recognized by the National Healthcareer Association as a Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) and Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA).
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