By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s a summer danger that could lead to vision loss, and it’s on the rise. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl shows how many popular activities can be trouble for your eyes.
Twenty-four-year-old Katie Clare can finally text again, but for awhile, she had trouble seeing.
“It was just really horrible. I mean, I was depressed. I was just so upset. I mean I couldn’t — I wasn’t — sleeping. I was just miserable,” said Katie.
She’d been enjoying an active summer, swimming a lot. Then she started to feel pain in her left eye, and her vision got fuzzy.
“Really terrifying, really terrifying. One of the first things the doctor said was, ‘You’re going to lose your eye if you don’t take care of this right now,’” Katie explained.
She had a severe infection in one eye that caused a corneal ulcer, which is a sore on the clear tissue at the front of the eye, and it was all from one simple mistake.
“I swam in a pool with my contact lenses. Never would have thought, and I think the worst part is that I was just never told not to do that. I was never told,” said Katie.
The infection was caused by a parasite called Acanthamoeba, which lives in water.
“Water is very dangerous. It has a lot of pathogens,” said Dr. Kristin Hammersmith, with Wills Eye Hospital.
She says the infections mostly happen to people who wear the same contact lenses for too long, allowing bacteria to grow and penetrate the eye. It’s more common this time of year with all the outdoor activities.
“We see a lot more corneal infections, and they can be very serious. They can be very serious. They can be very painful. They can reduce vision and even cause patients to lose their vision and need surgery,” said Dr. Hammersmith.
Traditional medications, including antibiotics, were only marginally successful for Katie, and her eye was permanently scarred. She ended up having a cornea transplant to restore her vision.
“It’s already been two surgeries. I probably have a couple more ahead of me. It’s a lot to deal with,” said Katie.
It’s not clear why Katie, who regularly swam in her contacts, only got the infection in one eye.
Still, people with contacts are advised to use daily disposables and never sleep, shower or swim in lenses.
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