‘Nightmare’ behind mum’s sore eyes

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An Australian mother-of-two struck down by a parasite was told she would never see out of her left eye again.

On Christmas Day, Lauren, from Sydney, began noticing irritation and redness in her eye but put it down to her contact lenses “not sitting right”.

However, little did she know a fortnight later she would be diagnosed with a parasite called Acanthamoeba keratitis — the same infection that caused British man Nick Humphreys to go partially blind.

The pregnant mother told Seven News after multiple trips to the chemist and doctor, she woke up in excruciating pain, unable to open her eye.

Sydney mum Lauren was told she would go blind after contracting an eye parasite. Picture: Seven News
media_cameraSydney mum Lauren was told she would go blind after contracting an eye parasite. Picture: Seven News

And that’s when she asked her husband to take her to the eye hospital.

Similar to Nick, Lauren was told by doctors she had ulcers on her eye, and doctors were unable to tell her how they came to be there.

However, samples recovered from her eye later tested positive for Acanthamoeba keratitis, which is caused by a tiny parasite found in water.

“It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” Lauren said.

“It was excruciating. I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t open my eye, I had to pry it open.”

Lauren, who discovered she was pregnant while in hospital, described the ordeal as “a waking nightmare”.

But she later faced more frightening news.

While in hospital, Lauren was told the strong dosage of eye drops would likely result in foetal mutation.

She noticed irritation and redness in her eye but put it down to her contact lenses ‘not sitting right’.
media_cameraShe noticed irritation and redness in her eye but put it down to her contact lenses ‘not sitting right’.

“I was a mess,” Lauren told Seven News.

“The worst part was there were no definite answers.

“I would ask ‘what’s going to happen?’ and they would just reply with ‘maybe this or maybe that’.”

Lauren, who underwent emergency treatment, said: “It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.

“It was excruciating. I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t open my eye, I had to pry it open.”

Lauren, who requested to have her surname withheld, made a miraculous recovery and was cleared of the parasite on June 26.

Lauren has no loss of sight, nor is the health of her unborn baby impacted.

Doctors still don’t know the cause of the parasite and told Lauren she “must have” swum with her contacts in, but she is adamant she always took them out before entering the water.

She tested positive for Acanthamoeba keratitis, a parasite that resides in water and embeds itself behind contact lenses. Picture: Seven News
media_cameraShe tested positive for Acanthamoeba keratitis, a parasite that resides in water and embeds itself behind contact lenses. Picture: Seven News

“All of the pain and the risk of having permanent eye damage is not worth it,” she told Seven News.

“The whole experience was pure pain, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Lauren’s story comes after Brit man Nick also suffered the horrific impact of mixing water with contact lenses.

The 29-year-old was left blind in his right eye after taking his routine shower while still wearing his contact lenses.

He’d wear his contacts up to five days a week and glasses on the other days.

“I thought nothing of it at the time. I was never told not to wear contact lenses in the shower,” Mr Humphreys said.

“There’s no warning on the packaging, and my opticians never mentioned a risk.”

But after five years of showering with his contacts in, the British man started to notice something wasn’t quite right in January 2018.

The pregnant mother-of-two was cleared of the parasite on June 26, with no loss to her sight or health implications to her unborn child. Picture: Seven News
media_cameraThe pregnant mother-of-two was cleared of the parasite on June 26, with no loss to her sight or health implications to her unborn child. Picture: Seven News

He was told it was an ulcer, but results later tested positive to the same parasite Lauren had — Acanthamoeba keratitis.

While Nick said he’d “never heard of the infection before” — a week later doctors revealed the damage was so bad he may need to have his eye removed.

Despite having surgery to try to save his eye, Nick lost his sight six months later.

The procedure — a amniotic membrane transplant to his right cornea — was performed in July last year.

It cleared the infection, meaning Nick, who had been forced to stop work because of the pain, could at least start to get “back on track”.

Nick Humphreys, 29, from Shropshire, England, also contracted Acanthamoeba keratitis after showering with his contact lenses in. Picture: PA Real Life
media_cameraNick Humphreys, 29, from Shropshire, England, also contracted Acanthamoeba keratitis after showering with his contact lenses in. Picture: PA Real Life
Despite having surgery to try to save his eye, Nick lost his sight six months later. Picture: PA Real Life
media_cameraDespite having surgery to try to save his eye, Nick lost his sight six months later. Picture: PA Real Life

After being referred to a counsellor by his GP, Nick has slowly come to terms with his condition.

He’s now working with the UK charity Fight for Sight to raise awareness of the danger of using contact lenses in the shower or while swimming.

According to Specsavers, wearing contacts during a shower is “inadvisable”.

“Water and contact lenses should simply not come into contact with one another, as this eyewear should be kept hygienically clean at all times. Otherwise, there is a possibility that germs or chemicals such as chlorine from the water, or even from the shower head, will get behind the contact lens and infect the eye,” the company says online.

Originally published as ‘Nightmare’ behind mum’s sore eyes

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