Microscopic Bug Eats Woman’s Eye After She Leaves Contacts In For 6 Months

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You may think twice about not taking care of your contact lenses once you read this. For 23-year-old Taiwanese student Lian Kao, too many days with the same pair of lenses took her eyesight in a way that’s going to make you squirm.

Kao wore the same pair of disposable contact lenses for six months straight, without removing them even once – not even for cleaning. As a result, a microscopic bug grew in the space between the lens and Kao’s cornea, and the bug began feeding on her eyeball – eventually devouring the surface.

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When doctors removed the lenses, they were horrified to discover that Kao’s eye surface had been eaten away by the microscopic bug that had been trapped underneath the lens.

Wu Jian-liang, the director of ophthalmology at Taipei’s Wan Fang Hospital, said:

“Contact lens wearers are a high-risk group that can easily be exposed to eye diseases. A shortage of oxygen can destroy the surface of the epithelial tissue, creating tiny wounds into which the bacteria can easily infect, spreading to the rest of the eye and providing a perfect breeding ground. The girl should have thrown the contact lenses away after a month but instead she overused them and has now permanently damaged her corneas.” [source]

Kao was diagnosed with acanthamoeba keratitis, a condition that develops over several years but only causes problems for the contacts wearers in its advanced stage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of the infection include eye pain, redness and blurred vision. If left untreated, vision loss or blindness can occur. Unfortunately for Kao, it is too late.

Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, advises that leaving contact lenses in for too long can increase the risk of eye infections because the cornea cannot get enough oxygen. He said:

“It’s a living, breathing organ, the cornea; it needs oxygen.” [source]

BN3KT7 SEM of an Acanthamoeba polyphaga protozoa

Fromer tells his patients to never leave their contact lenses in overnight, as the cells of the cornea break down without adequate oxygen. Over time, this removes the eye’s barrier to infection.

Now, Jian-liang is using Kao’s case to urge others to be diligent with their contact lenses. Unfortunately, Kao went blind from a totally preventable situation.