CONTACT lenses can sometimes be difficult to get in and out.
But one woman has claimed that she has been left blind in one eye after making a common mistake.
Kyra Smith said she rinsed her lens out in tap water before putting it back in her eye in March 2021.
Just weeks later the 25-year-old contracted acanthamoeba keratitis – a sight threatening infection of the cornea.
She has now gone completely blind in one eye and is warning others of the dangers.
The dental office worker explained that she had put her contacts in to go to work and felt a bursting sensation in her left eye – but didn't think too much of it.
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Kyra, who lives in New Mexico, US, said: "When I got back home that night after my shift I took out my contact lenses and my eye was noticeably red but it wasn't hurting or anything at that point.
"I just thought it had to do with my contacts because they can be kind of uncomfortable and irritating for the eye.
"The next day I woke up and my eye was more red and by that night it was starting to hurt more and that's when I started to become worried.
"The next day I went to an eye doctor and he couldn't give me a definitive answer of what was going on but he thought it could be some kind of infection so he gave me some eye drops."
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Kyra went home and was in pain with her eye and said she was experiencing light sensitivity.
Because of this she went back to the eye doctor, who re-examined her.
He had been looking at her eye with a microscope and exclaimed 'what is this', which Kyra said 'really scared her'.
She said: "After six weeks of back and forth they still couldn't tell me what was wrong with my eye – they told me at one point that it could be herpes and gave me medication but that wasn't working.
"After that things went downhill – my light sensitivity was getting so bad that I couldn't be outside or look at my phone and it would travel to my other eye so even using my good eye was hurting badly.
"I started losing my sight in April and it was very rapid after that – it started as a blur in the corner of my eye and spread and within two weeks my sight was completely gone."
After going to a different specialist, she was told she had acamthoeba.
What is acanthamoeba keratitis?
Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) is an infection of the cornea.
It's caused by a common microscopic organism called Acanthamoeba, which is usually found in bodies of water such as lakes, oceans and rivers.
It also lives in domestic tap water, swimming pools, hot tubs, soil and air.
AK is most common in people who wear contact lenses.
This is because they're more likely to have used a solution that hasn't cleaned their lenses effectively, or their lenses have become contaminated with water.
However, anyone with a corneal injury is susceptible.
What are the signs you need to know?
According to CooperVision, symptoms include:
- sensitivity to light and excessive tearing
- blurred vision with eye redness and pain
- sensations of having something in your eye
- severe headaches
However, they said this was problematic because she had been suffering for more than six weeks without any treatment.
"I was scared and super emotional because I didn't know what it meant for me and my vision. It was very difficult to deal with," she added.
At the time Kyra had been working in Florida in the tourism industry.
She had to move her mum into her apartment to take care of her as she spent five months unable to work and do basic tasks for herself due to having lost sight in one eye.
The pressure and light sensitivity in Kyra's left eye even travelled to her 'good' right eye, forcing her to board all of the windows up in her apartment and avoid daylight completely except for going to doctors appointments.
Doctors put her on an intense course of antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, steroids and eye drops to combat the infection.
In April this year, they said they had killed the parasite, so Kyra had a cornea transplant to restore her vision.
But the parasite was still alive and infected the new cornea.
To this day she is still blind in her left eye but she hopes to have a second transplant.
She recalled: "I couldn't do anything for myself, my mom even had to style my hair for me. Towards the end I was starting to feel very defeated by everything.
"They [doctors] were worried that my eye had reinfected it all over again and it reacted to the medication so that means the parasite is still present and active.
"So now things are needing to be stabilised before I can have another transplant – they can't tell me when I can have it done, it just depends on when the parasite dies.
"Things are starting to get a little bit better and they're expecting that I'll get most of my vision back after the transplant."
She is now having weekly check-ups and takes medication to fight the infection.
After her ordeal, she has vowed to never rinse her contact lens in tap water again and urges others to be careful to avoid exposing their lenses to harmful bacteria as well.
Kyra said: "It wasn't something that I expected could happen – I knew that showering or swimming in them was not good but I wasn't aware that just rinsing your contacts case in tap water could also cause something like this.
"Now I wear my glasses all the time. I have not put a contact in since I started experiencing symptoms.
"I don't think that it's going to completely stop me from wearing contact lenses when I get my vision back but I'm just a lot more aware of what can happen.
"I definitely won't be using monthly contacts anymore or using tap water to rinse the case.
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"I always recommend listening to your eye doctor and never neglecting your lenses – there's so many more things than can happen and they can happen very fast.
"So it's important to understand the risks and realise that wearing contacts is a privilege and you have to care for your eyes."
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