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Millions of contact wearers are at risk of going blind all because of a tiny amoeba that can eat at your eyes.
The risk involves the Acanthamoeba parasite, a tiny, single-celled parasite that can thrive in dust, sea, showers and swimming pools. The amoeba feeds on bacteria found on dirty contact lenses and cases. So once the lens is put in the eye, it starts to eat its way through the cornea, which is the outer layer of the eyeball and breeding as it goes. Signs of an infection usually include itchy and watery eyes, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, swelling of the upper eyelid and extreme pain.
According to optician Graeme Stevenson, vision can be permanently damaged within a week. "Generally it leaves you with scarring. Your cornea is your window on life and if the infection penetrates in towards the third layer you are left with scarring, with a kind of frosty windscreen," Stevenson said.
The actual number of infections is small but treatment is long and not completely effective. The most severe cases will involve having to undergo cornea transplants. Due to this, experts advice that contact lens wearers keep lenses and cases clean and replace them regularly.