Over 750,000 Britons guilty of shower practice which could cause sight loss

An optician has warned that millions of Britons could be at risk of sight loss through bad shower habits.

According to The Association of British Dispensing Opticians, there are an estimated 3.6 million contact lens wearers in the UK.

A recent study by Vision Direct, revealed that 22 percent of these contact lens wearers shower in their lenses, putting their eyes at risk of visual complications.

Showering with lenses could make you more prone to developing a parasitic infection, commonly known as Acanthamoeba Keratitis, Nimmi Mistry, professional services optician for Vision Direct, explained.

Found in bodies of water, domestic tap water, swimming pools and hot tubs, this parasite can adhere to the surface of a contact lens, causing an infection.

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What’s worse, this rare but painful infection can result in sight loss if left untreated, the optician added.

Mistry explained that contact wearers are at greater risk of Acanthamoeba Keratitis due to contacts naturally being moist which can act as a host for the growth of micro-organisms such as Acanthamoeba.

Contact lenses can also potentially disrupt the natural tear film that covers the surface of your eye, which helps protect against infection and provides hydration. Mistry said: “This acts a ‘gateway’ for the parasite to penetrate the cornea.”

Furthermore, the expert shared that lenses can sometimes cause minor abrasions or micro-changes to the epithelium layer of the cornea, providing entry points for Acanthamoeba to infect the cornea.

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Warning signs to spot

What’s worse, the symptoms of this infection can be “difficult to spot”, resembling other eye problems.

Mistry said: “The symptoms are similar to those present with other bacterial or viral infections of the eyes.

“However, given the severe and sight-threatening nature of Acanthamoeba keratitis, it’s essential to consult an eye care professional immediately if you experience any of the symptoms.

“Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimising the potential complications of such a sight-threatening infection.”

Therefore, the optician recommended looking out for the following red flags:

  • Eye pain
  • Photophobia (Light Sensitivity)
  • Redness and irritation
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Excessive tearing.

How to reduce your risk

As prevention is always better than treatment, Mistry recommended “never” showering, bathing or swimming in contact lenses, even if they are intended for prolonged use.  

She added: “Following their exposure to water, contact lenses are compromised and need to be disposed of immediately. 

“Look out for symptoms of an infection and seek medical attention immediately if they occur.”

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