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Summer Eye Danger: Swimming With Contact Lenses

By Michelle Roberts, WBZ-TV
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CBS Boston (con't)

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BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a summer danger that can lead to vision loss, and doctors say it is on the rise.

Katie Clare is happy that she can see her phone well enough to text again, but for a while her vision had become blurry.

“It was really terrible. I was depressed. I was just so upset that I wasn’t sleeping. I was miserable,” said Clare describing her vision problems.

The 24-year-old had been enjoying an active summer, which meant time in the pool. She noticed a pain in her left eye, and then the blurry vision.

“It was really terrifying,” said Clare. “One of the first things the doctor said is ‘You are going to lose your eyesight if you don’t take care of this right now.’”

A severe infection in one eye caused a corneal ulcer, which is a sore on the clear tissue at the front of the eye.

This was all the result of one simple mistake. “I swam in a pool with my contact lenses,” said Clare. She doesn’t believe anyone ever told her that was not advisable.

The infection was caused by a parasite known as “Acanthameba” which thrives in water.

Dr. Kristen Hammersmith, an ophthalmologist, said water can be very dangerous and carry numerous pathogens.

Infections mostly happen to people who wear the same contact lenses for too long, allowing bacteria to grow and penetrate the eye.

They are more common this time of year with all of the outdoor activities.

“I see a lot more corneal infections and they can be very serious, very painful, they can reduce vision and even cause patients to lose their vision and need surgery,” said Dr. Hammersmith.

Traditional medications including antibiotics were only marginally successful for Katie.

Her eye was permanently scarred.

She ended up having a cornea transplant to restore her vision.

“It has already been two surgeries, and I probably have a couple more ahead of me. It’s a lot to deal with.”

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