A Michigan woman contracted a parasitic eye infection from her contact lenses.
Traci Lawson’s left eye began turning red in September 2017 and, when she went to an eye doctor, she was diagnosed with pink eye.
But her condition got worse and worse. Her eye was severely swollen, very sensitive to light and and causing Lawson pain that she likened to being ‘jabbed with a hot poker’.
After visiting six different physicians in one week in her hometown of Lansing – none of whom could figure our what was wrong – the 50-year-old was referred to the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center.
There, ophthalmologist Dr Shahzad Mian discovered that she had contracted a parasite – either from washing her contacts in tap water or swimming in a lake with the lenses in – that was scarring her cornea.
Traci Lawson, 50 (pictured), from Lansing, Michigan, was diagnosed with pink eye in her left eye in September 2017
Lawson’s left eye became more swollen, painful and sensitive to light (left and right). She was finally referred to an ophthalmologist who diagnosed her with acanthamoeba keratitis, a parasitic eye infection that attacks the cornea
Acanthamoeba keratitis is an infection caused by a parasitic amoeba that attacks the cornea, the outer covering of the eye.
Symptoms typically include eye pain, redness, blurry vision, sensitivity to light and tearing of the cornea.
Those who wear contact lenses are at the highest risk due to poor lens hygiene or exposure to water while wearing lenses.
This is because contact lenses act like sponges and trap water that contains bacteria.
Doctors believe Lawson contracted the infection either from rinsing her lens case in tap water or while swimming with her contact lenses in.
‘I never even thought twice about it. I would dump the old contact solution and I would rinse out my case before putting the new one in,’ she told WILX.
Sufferers are usually treated with prescription medications but, if left undiagnosed, the infection can cause scarring or even blindness.
However, it is difficult to diagnose early on because the symptoms resemble pinkeye and other eye infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in every 20,000 contact lens wearers is infected with the parasite.
‘My eye was milky looking and had gotten so swollen it was protruding from my face,’ Lawson told Michigan Health’s blog.
Doctors believe Lawson contracted the infection by washing her contacts in tap water or swimming in a lake with the lenses in. Pictured: Lawson’s infected eye
Lawson (pictured) was given eye drops that cleared the parasite, but needed two corneal transplants in her left eye to clear the scar tissue and restore her vision
Lawson was prescribed antibiotic eye drops, which killed the parasite after about 11 months, reported WILX.
However, she was unable to see because of scar tissue and underwent a corneal transplant, but it never took hold.
She received a second transplant in January, which did attach, and had 16 stitches put in her eye.
Lawson told WILX that she needs to take Prednisolone, a steroid medication, four times a day to reduce inflammation and lower her chances of rejection.
Users of contact lenses are advised to wash and dry their hands whenever they handle the lenses, to store contacts in clean solution rather than water or old solution and to avoid wearing them when swimming or showering.
‘Take care of your eyes because you don’t know how important they are to you until they’re gone,’ Lawson told the station.