For the squeamish, the images in this article are not extreme.
The 19-year-old contact lens wearer, Jessica Greaney, thought she only had a minor eye infection: her eye was sore and her eyelid kept drooping. "But, by the end of the week, my eye was bulging, and it looked like a huge red golf ball," Greaney said. "It was swollen, and extremely painful, and they admitted me into hospital."
Little did she know that there was a parasite, Acanthamoeba, living inside her eyeball. Left untreated, this parasite can cause blindness. To diagnose the problem, doctors had to scrape away a small sample of her eye tissue with a scalpel.
For the next four days, Greaney had to stay awake for treatment and put eye drops in her eye every thirty minutes. She commented on her harrowing experience: "Four nights of not being able to sleep sounds like torture and it is. It's really heartbreaking and hard to go through." Jessica recalls being exhausted, losing her appetite and, as a result, her immune system was shot.
"Although it's hard, it is worth it in the end because I'd rather go through four nights of not being able to sleep than not being able to see for the rest of my life."
Jessica's swollen eye
How did Greaney contract the parasite? Through her contact lenses. But don't fall for the misconception that you can only catch the parasite if you don't keep your lenses clean; the parasite lives in water and anyone can catch it. However, it's more common for contact lens wearers to get the parasite. If you shower or swim with your lenses in, you could be trapping the parasite next to your eyeball where your eye has no way to eject it with tears.
"I was really, really careful with my lenses, I'm actually quite known with my friends for being ridiculously over clean with them, but I kept my contact lenses by the sink in my room," Greaney explained.
Other than this, people often come into contact and ingest this parasite without harm.
Jessica's eye while she was recovering. Her right eyelid is still slightly open.
Fortunately, Jessica is recovering, but it's not been an easy process. She still needs to put 20 eyedrops in her eye every day. "That seems like a lot but it's a lot less than I was originally on."
The story has ended favorably for Jessica, albeit after many sleepless nights and a lot of pain. However, not everyone is this lucky; some sufferers need to have corneal transplants to restore their eyesight and others go blind entirely.
The message to take away from this story is to exercise vigilance with contact lenses around water. Even leaving your lenses next to your sink can put you at risk of contracting the parasite. Proper contact lens cleaning can easily kill the Acanthamoeba and you should never use tap water with your contact lenses. For more advice on how to reduce your chance of getting the parasite, check out at this website.
[Quotes from BBC]