A swimmer is warning of the dangers of poor contact lens hygiene after swimming in her lenses led to a sight-threatening eye infection.

An eye test at Specsavers revealed that Essex mum Christina Norman had developed a rare condition known as acanthamoeba keratitis.

The 54-year-old was diagnosed following a visit to the opticians and audiologists in February this year.

Christina said: ‘It all started when I began to feel like there was something gritty in my eye causing it to weep, but it was when I began to feel a sensitivity to the light that I became alarmed and made an appointment at my local Specsavers.’

Eye-saving diagnosis

A sight test performed at the store revealed an infection in the cornea of Christina’s right eye and she was referred immediately to Moorfields Eye Hospital in central London, where they conducted a corneal cell scrape and diagnosed the condition.

Business owner Christina added: ‘I wasn’t able to do anything for days afterwards. I was in a lot of pain and I had to administer eye drops every hour during the day and night for the first three to four days. I then used eye drops every hour during the day for the two months that followed.’

Now, having recovered from her ordeal, she said: ‘I was really lucky that my infection was caught early and I’m an example of why it’s important to go and get yourself checked if you’re experiencing any discomfort in your eyes. I’ve now been discharged from hospital and the doctors told me how surprised they were that I’ve not suffered any lasting damage.’

Miraj Patel, optometrist director of Specsavers in Braintree said: ‘Acanthamoeba keratitis is an infection cause by an organism called acanthamoeba, which is often present in water sources.

'It is rare for the organism to infect the cornea, but it is most common among contact lens wearers and, in the vast majority of cases, is caused through contact with water such as showering whilst wearing contact lenses or handling them with wet hands. If untreated, it can lead to blindness.’

50% of eye loss is avoidable

A new report published by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Specsavers shows that one in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime despite at least half of all cases being avoidable.

Christina is now urging other contact lens wearers to be mindful of this: ‘I regularly use my leisure centre’s swimming pool and hot tub but, as I never put my head under the water, I generally would keep my contact lenses in. Now I will be sure to remove them if there is any chance of water coming into contact with my eyes.’

Miraj added: ‘Our eyecare experts are always on hand to offer contact lens advice. Just drop by or give us a call if you have any questions about wearing or caring for your lenses. If you experience any eye irritation as a lens wearer, pop them out and make an appointment to visit us in store.’

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