Acanthamoeba Keratitis, an eye disease, affects the cornea of the eye. Light enters the eye through the cornea, which is the transparent layer in front of your eye. This disease or infection is serious, but rare. It’s caused by a parasitic amoeba known as acanthamoeba. Acanthameoba can cause not only eye infections, but central nervous system and skin infections as well. This parasite is found everywhere around us, in the environment, in soil and in the water. Most of us are exposed to acanthomoeba, but very few of us become sick from it. It spreads via cuts, wounds, through contact lens or by being inhaled into the lungs. Let’s learn a bit more about AK, or Acanthamoeba Keratitis:
Early symptoms of Acanthamoeba Keratitis
It’s very important for AK to be detected as early as possible for proper treatment. Acanthamoeba keratitis early symptoms can be quite confusing with other viral and fungal eye infections. People who wear contact lenses have to be more careful than others when they have any eye trouble. Some signs of AK are:
Severe eye pain
A gritty sensation in the eyes
Red eyes which persist even though contact lens is avoided for several days
An ulcer on the cornea which is shaped like a ring
Acanthamoeba Keratitis is a very dangerous infection. If left untreated it can even cause blindness. Diagnosis of Acanthamoeba Keratitis early symptoms can prevent the loss of vision, and normal sight can be restored.
Causes of acanthamoeba keratitis
Cornea, the transparent outer covering of our eyes, is the path through which light enters the cornea. When the cornea is inflamed, it is known as keratitis.
Acanathamoeba keratitis is caused when the cornea is damaged / traumatized. There can be many causes of corneal injury.
Contact lenses have been one of the main reasons behind AK. Chances become significant if someone has been wearing contact lens for a long period of time. Injury due to contact lens is minimum and heals quickly if the contact lenses that are used are clean and applied with care. The lens should be cleaned using commercial cleaning solutions. If lenses are cleaned with water, especially water which is not sterile, it enables acanthamoeba to enter the eyes and cause keratitis. Other causes can be taking showers or swimming while wearing contact lens. Homemade solutions used to clean contact lens can also be one of the causes of acanthamoeba keratitis.
Before the use of contact lenses, corneal abrasions along with contaminated water were thought to be the main risk factors for AK.
Contact lens use and AK
If a dirty case is used to store the lens then it can become a reason of AK. Contact lenses help the amoeba in reaching the cornea which exacerbates the disease progression. Lenses when worn improperly or longer than the recommended period of time, erodes the epithelium of the cornea. Research has associated lenswear with the upregulation of receptor proteins on the epithelial surface of the cornea. This increases the capacity of the amoeba to destroy corneal tissue.
The type of contact lens worn also matters. Overnight lens users are at 30% greater risk of developing AK. Daily disposable lenses are the least likely to spread infection, and wearers of rigid lenses are less prone to infection when compared to those who wear soft lenses. Those who wear silicon hydrogel lenses are also at greater risk.
Corneal trauma due to accidents is also a cause of infection.
Acanthamoeba keratitis prevention and treatment
AK can be prevented with hygienic use of contact lens. AK is very rare so it is often misdiagnosed. Antibacterial solutions and other medications are used to treat this infection, and treatment might continue for months and in some cases, up to a year. Surgery is required if the cornea is severely damaged and has led to blindness.
Early diagnosis is crucial, otherwise it may lead to corneal transplant. Acanthamoeba keratitis prevention and treatment is not very tough and with proper care while using contact lenses, the dangerous infection can be avoided. Hygienic use and care of contact lenses is the best way to prevent AK and other eye infections.