What is Acanthamoeba?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, July 4, 2021

Acanthamoeba can enter the body through an open wound and cause massive brain swelling resulting in death in about 95% of those infected.

Acanthamoeba is a microscopic, free-living ameba, or amoeba, that can cause rare, but severe infections of the skin, central nervous system and eyes. The ameba is found in water and soil environments, worldwide. It can be spread to the eyes through cuts, contact lenses, or by being inhaled into the lungs.

The most common eye condition disease caused by Acanthamoeba is Acanthamoeba keratitis.

Acanthamoeba keratitis is an infection of the eye that can result in permanent vision loss, including blindness.

What can cause Acanthamoeba keratitis?

Acanthamoeba keratitis has been found in almost all water sources, from pools to showers. This serious condition can occur due:

  • Using tap water to clean or store contact lenses
  • Swimming with contact lenses, especially in bodies of freshwater

What are Acanthamoeba keratitis symptoms?

Commonly known symptoms of Acanthamoeba keratitis include:

  • A red, frequently painful eye infection that doesn’t improve with regular treatment
  • Blurred vision, excessive tearing, light sensitivity and a feeling of something in the eye
  • Irritated, red eyes that last for an unusually long time after removing your contact lenses

If you experience any of the symptoms above, immediately contact an eye doctor near you.

SEE RELATED: When is Blurred Vision a Medical Emergency?

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How is Acanthamoeba keratitis treated?

Your eye doctor will recommend the following treatment options:

  • Topical anti-infective agents applied to the infected area
  • Removal of damaged tissues
  • A biopsy, if the condition worsens

Lower your risk of acanthamoeba keratitis

The following can help reduce your risks of catching this sight-threatening eye condition:

  • Always wash hands thoroughly before handling contact lenses
  • Never use tap water to store or rinse contact lenses
  • Don’t swim or shower with contact lenses
  • Do not sleep in contact lenses unless prescribed by your doctor.
  • Do not sleep in contact lenses after swimming
  • Never put contact lenses in your mouth or use saliva to wet the contact lens
  • Never swap lenses with someone else
  • Replace lenses as your doctor prescribed
  • Before storing, rub and rinse the surface of the contact lens
  • Use sterile products that are only recommended by your eye doctor to disinfect and clean your lenses

LEARN MORE:  Guide to Eye Exams

If you experience eye redness, secretions, visual blurring or pain, contact an eye doctor near you immediately.