05.12.2016

Paramedic Discovers What He Thought Was Conjunctivitis Is Actually Acanthamoeba Keratitis

Paramedic Discovers What He Thought Was Conjunctivitis Is Actually Acanthamoeba Keratitis

Odds are you have never heard of the eye disease "acanthamoeba keratitis" before. Hopefully you won't have any further experience with this word for the rest of your life. But, as we all know, life is unpredictable. So, the best thing we can do to handle life's many uncertainties is to arm ourselves with knowledge.

A few volunteers are now spreading information on how we all can prevent this infection from touching our eyes. Although this infection is rare, it is extremely serious and often leads to complete blindness.

The reason this waterborne infection is in the news nowadays has to do with a man named Andrew Carthew. Carthew, who was a paramedic, woke up one morning with a very sore eye in June of 2015. He immediately thought that it was just conjunctivitis. However, when the symptoms of pain and light sensitivity didn't go away for a few days, Carthew decided to check this out with an eye doctor. After a few weeks of exhaustive tests, doctors finally discovered that Carthew was suffering from a serious case of acanthamoeba keratitis.

Acanthamoeba keratitis is spread by tiny amoebae in wetland areas. These amoebae bury themselves deep within the eyes' corneae and can cause blindness within a few months. 85 percent of people who catch this disease wear contact lenses. Most of these people fail to practice proper hygiene with their contacts, especially after swimming.

Unfortunately for Mr. Carthew, things went from bad to worse. He actually went completely blind in his left eye in November of 2015. He quickly went in for a cornea transplant at Bristol Royal Infirmary. While this surgery was successful, the pain and sensitivity soon returned into Carthew's left eye. The infection came back in full strength.

A major risk with acanthamoeba keratitis is that the infection will travel up into the patient's brain via the optic nerve. This could lead to permanent brain damage. In order to avoid this risk, Carthew decided to have his left eye completely removed.

Carthew had to give up his job as a paramedic after this surgery, but now he and his wife, Joanna Carthew, have a very different life mission. Both Carthews are actively spreading information on preventative measures and warning symptoms of acanthamoeba keratitis.

A few of the major symptoms that may indicate acanthamoeba keratitis include an increased sensitivity to light, eye pain, incapacitating headaches, the feeling of something stuck inside the eye, excessive tear production, and hazy vision.

As mentioned earlier, these amoebae often find it easier to infect the eyes of people using contact lenses. People wearing contact lenses should always be cautious when swimming or walking around lakes, rivers, oceans, pools, and hot tubs.

The Carthews also note that even holding your contacts with dirty or wet hands can increase your risk of catching this infection. Although this is a rare disease (currently 1 in 100,000 in EU member states), they caution everyone wearing contacts to develop solid cleaning


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