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Keep An Eye On Acanthamoeba keratitis

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

✍🏽 Monica Neves | BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science graduate from the Uni of the West of Scotland


What is Acanthamoeba? 🦠

Acanthamoeba keratitis
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There are at least 20 Acanthamoeba species, 11 of which cause diseases in humans, including Acanthamoeba castellanii and Acanthamoeba keratitis.

Acanthamoebae are tiny, single-celled living organisms, also known as amoebae.

They are found everywhere, in particular, in soil and water sources.


What is Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK)? 👁

When left untreated, AK infection can lead to permanent sight loss or even blindness.

AK is a rare and severe infection of the cornea caused by Acanthamoeba.


What are the symptoms of AK? 🔥

The symptoms of AK result from the eye coming into contact with Acanthamoeba through contaminated water or small corneal scratches.

In the early stages, the symptoms associated with AK infection tend to be mild and non-specific; they can also be present in other corneal infections, making diagnosis challenging.

  • Eye pain and inflammation

  • Eye redness

  • Light sensitivity

  • Blurred vision

  • Excessive tearing

  • Foreign body sensation in the eye

AK can often be misdiagnosed with Herpes Simplex Virus Keratitis, as both conditions present branching, treelike ulcers known as dendriform ulcers.


Who is at risk of contracting AK? 🤓

Overall, 85% of AK cases have been linked with contact lens use.
Contact lens and case

People with a corneal injury and contact lens users tend to be more at risk of contracting AK.

Exposure to contaminated water, poor contact lens hygiene and storage system are the main contributing factors.


What is the difference between daily and reusable contact lenses? 🤷🏼‍♂️

People who wear reusable contact lenses are three times more at risk of contracting AK, compared to daily contact lens users (dailies).

The type of contact lenses used can also play a significant role. Dailies are meant to be used once and disposed of on a daily basis, whilst, reusable contact lenses, such as biweekly and monthly, are intended to be used multiple times over a period of time.

Reusable contact lenses tend to be more affordable. However, they require more maintenance, as they should be cleaned after every use and stored correctly. Meanwhile, dailies are more expensive but they are generally considered more hygienic.


How can AK infection be prevented? 🚰

To reduce the risk of AK infection, consider implementing the following precautions:
  • Do not mix contact lenses with water

  • Make sure your hands are washed and dried thoroughly before handling contact lenses

  • Clean and rub your reusable contact lenses with the official solution after every use

  • Place your contact lenses in fresh solution after every use

  • Do not reuse dailies

  • Avoid wearing contact lenses while swimming, showering, or in the sauna

  • Consider prescription goggles to carry out water-related activities

  • Replace storage cases regularly

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Edited by: Nori Otis (Content Editor)

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