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UK Woman Who Lost an Eye From Parasitic Infection Advocates Proper Contact Lens Care

A common parasite found in tap water made a home for itself in Marie Mason’s left eye. She had to have it removed.




Contact lenses are amazing medical devices. They are convenient, functional, and relatively inexpensive. It is estimated that more than 45 million Americans wear them.

However, contact lenses are not without their dangers. The improper use of contacts can lead to an assortment of issues or ailments, from itchy eyes to blindness.

A recent story from across the Atlantic underscored the importance of proper contact lens care.

According to a pair of articles from British media outlets BBC News and The Independent, Marie Mason started experiencing issues with her left eye in 2015. She eventually was diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis, an infection caused by a microscopic ameba. The likely culprit: contact with tap water due to improper contact lens safety.

“(The parasite) lives in water and soil and it is so tiny it managed to get between my contact lens and cornea and started feasting on my cornea,” says Mason in the BBC News article. “It would have got under the lens then multiplied, so my eye was riddled with it.”

Mason endured five years of painful and failed treatments. Nothing provided a cure, from an assortment of medications and eye drops to a trio of cornea transplants. Doctors were left with no alternative other than to remove her eye in 2020. She now wears an ocular prosthesis, commonly called a glass or fake eye.


What is Acanthamoeba?

Acanthamoeba is found in most water sources, from rivers and lakes in nature to swimming pools and showers at home. It rarely causes infections. However, individuals who swim or take showers in their contacts increase their risk. Such parasites also are a main reason why contact lenses or lens cases should never be cleaned or disinfected using tap water.

The American Optometric Association notes:

“Acanthamoeba is one of the most common organisms in the environment. Although it rarely causes infection, when it does occur, it can threaten your vision.”

From the American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Acanthamoeba keratitis, first recognized in 1973, is a rare, vision threatening, parasitic infection seen most often in contact lens wearers. It is often characterized by pain out of proportion to findings and the late clinical appearance of a stromal ring-shaped infiltrate. It is both difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat.”

For her part, Mason says she wasn’t aware of the risks involved with wearing contacts. She’d like contact manufacturers to add warning labels to their packaging.

“Wear contact lenses, that’s absolutely fine, but you’ve just got to be careful. It’s the water thing more than anything,” says Mason in speaking with The Independent. “I would just like the manufactures to put more warnings on the packaging about water and contact lenses. I just don’t want anyone else to go through it really.”


Contact Lens Safety Awareness

The promotion of safe contact lens use and care has been the focus of a number of initiatives within the optical industry.

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