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  • Writer's pictureEast Yorkshire Eye Surgery

The Rule of 3 S’s

Whilst enjoying the glorious sunny weather make sure that, in addition to applying your sun lotion, you don’t forget to look after your eyes. Not just by wearing sunglasses, but also by remembering to take out your contact lenses when you are swimming in the pool or sea, relaxing in a hot tub or even when showering.

I know it can be all too easy to forget to take your lenses out when having fun, perhaps it is inconvenient to take them out, or maybe you might chance leaving them in for a quick dip. Let me tell you why it really is not worth the risk of leaving them in at all.

I have managed several cases of Acanthamoeba Keratitis, a serious eye condition caused by a microscopic protozoan that is ubiquitous in our water supply. You can also find it in seawater, lakes, swimming pools, hot tubs and bottled water. It generally does us no harm as far as we are aware, however, in a minority of people it can cause infection of the cornea: the clear window at the front of the eye. This may present as pain, a red eye, reduced vision or excessive watering. If you develop any of these symptoms you must consult a doctor within 24 hours of onset.

Thankfully it is quite a rare infection, but in those who do contract it, they are much more likely to be contact lens wearers. This is because, as a contact lens wearer, you are more likely to touch your eye, the lubricating tear film is sequestered under the contact lens and the mechanism of blinking to clear debris from the cornea is impaired, as the eye lids are prevented from being in contact with the cornea.

We diagnose this condition in clinic by examination under a slit lamp and by taking a scrape of the corneal surface. It can be very difficult to diagnose in the initial stages as it can present in a very similar way to other eye infections. It is a very hardy organism, making treatment a long and often frustrating process.

The earlier we can commence treatment the better the chance of recovery. We can treat it with a number of eye drops. We often start treatment with two or more antimicrobial drops and initially these are administered hourly. You are gradually weaned off the treatment over a period of three months or more. The corneal infection invariably leads to scarring of your cornea with possible visual loss. If the corneal scarring is on your visual axis (think of this as being the centre of the cornea) you may require an operation to restore your vision, known as a corneal transplant. There are different types of corneal transplant, depending on the depth of scarring.

Contact lens wearers can minimise their chances of developing corneal infection by following the “Rule of 3 S’s”: to remove your lenses before Swimming, Showering and Sleeping. Finally, please do not ever use water to clean your contact lenses, make sure you always have the correct contact lens solution.

Take care and enjoy the rest of the heat wave!


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