At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Acanthamoeba keratitis is an amebic infection of the eye that is most likely to occur in people who use contact lenses. The condition is rare and may be treatable, but favorable treatment outcome depends on catching this infection in its early stages. Since it can be confused with other eye infections, early diagnosis doesn’t always occur. The disease may unfortunately progress to the point where it damages the cornea and causes loss of vision. This loss might be addressed by corneal transplant in eligible candidates.
Certain factors seem to be most often present among people who present with acanthamoeba keratitis. It typically occurs in people who are otherwise healthy and relatively young. Coming into contact with the ameba can occur if people wash contact lenses with contaminated water, or get exposed to the ameba when they’re in swimming pools, lakes or hot tubs and wearing their lenses. Homemade lens cleaning solutions or improper or infrequent cleaning of contact lenses may elevate risk too.
Initial symptoms of acanthamoeba keratitis are similar to the symptoms of other eye infections. These could include eye pain, a sensation that something is in the eye, excess tears, photosensitivity, and blurring of the vision. Although these may indicate much less serious conditions, this constellation of symptoms, particularly when present in a person wearing contacts, indicates people need immediate care from an eye doctor. Early diagnosis gives best chance of treating the condition successfully.
Should acanthamoeba keratitis be allowed to progress, other symptoms or signs may result. These include a white ring that begins to cover the iris or colored part of the eye. This is actually an ulceration of the cornea and is suggestive of significant damage to vision.
The illness can be treated in several ways. People can use a topical anti-amebic agent on the eyes. The affected eye, as usually the condition is limited to one eye, may also need debridement of the cornea, or surgical removal of some of the ameba present before this treatment starts. Depending on severity, treatment could be required for about a month or may last much longer. When vision has been impaired, doctors may also suggest corneal transplant.
Given the potential severity of acanthamoeba keratitis, it is exceptionally important that people take excellent care of their contact lenses and follow all directions for keeping them clean. Adhering to instructions on lens care also means not ignoring advice on single use lenses, which should not be used more than once. This form of keratitis may first resist diagnosis and then resist treatment, and it’s recommended that people avoid the matter, if possible, by not getting infected.