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Doctors Keep Teen Awake for a Week to Keep Parasite from Tunneling into Her Eye

Contact lenses seem harmless, but they can cause the eyes some serious damage, something that 18-year-old Jessica Greaney learned the hard way. She was nearly left blind last month, when a parasite burrowed into her eye and started feeding on her cornea, all because of a contaminated lens.

When Jessica first noticed that her eyelid was drooping, she thought she just had a minor infection. The young girl visited the hospital, where doctors told her it was an ulcer, but in spite of using medication for a week, her symptoms didn’t go away. In fact, they steadily worsened.

“By the end of the week, my eye was bulging, and it looked like a huge red golf ball,” Jessica told student newspaper The Tab. “It was swollen, and extremely painful, and they admitted me into hospital.

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This time, doctors scraped and tested a layer of her eye, in order to get a better idea of what was going on. And the results shocked everybody. It turned out that a parasite called Acanthamoeba Keratitis was actually living in Jessica’s eye!

To kill the parasite and keep it from tunneling into her eyeball, Jessica had to undergo a torturous treatment that left her sleepless for seven days straight. Nurses would visit her room every 10 minutes, waking her up to administer eye drops. “I wasn’t allowed to sleep properly for a week,” Jessica said.

“It was not dissimilar from Chinese water torture. After the fourth day, not only was I going insane, and even crying every five minutes, nothing was changing. This parasite was still eating my eye and even worse, my immune system was shutting down because of my lack of sleep.”

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Fortunately, the treatment worked and Jessica was discharged from the hospital with a healed eye. But she still had to be administered 21 droplets a day until the swelling and redness in her eye subsided.

Acanthameoba – commonly found in soil, freshwater, and seawater – thrives in areas where limescale and bacteria are in abundance. In Jessica’s case, the parasite got into her eye after she had left her contact lenses near the sink, where they got splashed with tap water. Contact lens wearers are apparently at the highest risk, if they clean their lenses or lens cases with tap water.

“Apparently, water has tonnes of different types of bacteria and the Acanthamoeba just happens to be one of them,” Jessica explained. If so much as a droplet of water gets into contact with the lens, problems can occur.”

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“One of my lenses got contaminated, and the parasite survived in the area between the lens and my eye.” If left untreated, the parasite could have blinded her, or even resulted in paralysis or death.

“I got my infection by just leaving my contact lenses near my sink, in a glass of solution,” she said. “I want to raise awareness about this parasite and tell people they need to be very careful with their contact lenses.”

Photos: Jessica Greaney/The Tab

Source: The Tab