Watch Out for Acanthomoeba Keratitis!

Acanthamoeba comes from the Greek word “acantho” meaning curled, which refers to its pseudopodia, and “amoeba”. An amoeba’s pseudopod or false feet is specifically known as lobopodia. These false feet encircles any food in its environment and basically engulfs its prey through a puncture on its membrane. What makes amoeba strong and dangerous is its ability to withstand harsh environment through cyst formation. In this case, inside the human body, the outer covering or cyst protects the amoeba from white blood cells and other forms of defense used by the immune system to eliminate this parasite. This makes the amoeba hard to get rid of.

Some reports of this disease show the following signs:

• sensation of having something in the eye, watery eyes

• blurred vision,

• sensitivity to light,

• swelling of the upper eyelid and

• extreme pain

Free living amoeba including those that belong to the genus Acanthomoeba have been found rampant in soil, dust, air and most especially water. The Acanthomoeba keratitis’ effect on individuals is commonly found in the eyes. They especially attack those who wear contaminated contact lens. The first case of this disease was reported in 1974, when a Texas rancher splashed a tap water from a contaminated river into his eyes. Acanthomoeba keratitis can also attack indirectly. Many contact lens users use tap water in rinsing their lenses and its storage case, which is actually not advisable. This activity might invite A. keratitis to the lens and the storage case. Once inside the case, the amoeba can grow and multiply. These organisms from the case will be transferred to the lens, and then to the eyes, which may lead to a major infection.

So, in order to avoid this threatening disease you should do the following;

1. Follow the advice of your contact lens practitioner as to the prescription in your lens care system.

2. Wash and dry your hand thoroughly when putting on, removing, and cleaning your contact lens.

3. Air-dry the storage case and keep it dry when the lenses are being worn.

4. Never use tap water when cleaning your lenses and storage case.

5. Remove your lenses when swimming or taking a bath.

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