FOR GOD'S SAKE TAKE YOUR CONTACT LENSES OUT, Or Amoebas Might Eat Your Corneas

AMOEBAS. IN YOUR EYES. EATING THEM.

Jul 16, 2014 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

I can't be trusted to wear contact lenses. 
 
When I was on a high school trip my junior year, my friend Sarah told me I could just put my contact lenses on my tongue, IN MY MOUTH, to re-moisten them if they fell out during the day. Sarah, that font of medical knowledge, also informed me that I didn't actually need to take my contacts out every night, I could just sleep with them in and then squirt cleaning solution directly into my eyeballs. 
 
These revelations were game changers for me and my eyeballs. I hated having to deal with the chore of taking my contact lenses out at night and then jamming them into my eyes again in the morning, usually while running late. With this new routine of just waking up and squirting cleaning solution into my eyeballs, entire minutes would be saved, and my life would now be perfect! 
 
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These beautiful brown eyes almost fell out of my head. Not really. Okay, maybe. 

 
At first I made it a point to take my contacts out at least once a week to give my eyes a break at night (mind you this was in the olden days when pterodactyls still flew through the air and day/night contacts were either nonexistent or too expensive). But over time, I got too lazy -- once a week contact maintenance?!? Guuuuuuuuh -- and just wore my lenses for weeks at a time. 
 
At the end of every two or three week stretch of contact lens wearing I'd take my contacts out for a day or a night, and give my eyes a break. During those breaks I remember my eyes stinging and being super sensitive to such irritants as a light breeze or the horror of direct sunlight. While my eyes were "breathing," they would be weepier than usual, and I'd often pull long strings of gummy, gooey, crap from the corners of my eyes. You'd think this would bother me, but I was so used to waking up with crusty, sticky eyes, especially toward the end of my marathon contact lens wearing days, that I ignored it and figured, "Eh, I'll be fine."
 
Then my friend Brian almost went blind. He was another marathon contact lens wearer. He'd been complaining of eye pain for a while, and upon going to the eye doctor, he was told that if he didn't immediately get treatment and entirely stop wearing his contacts for a while, he would lose vision in at least one of his eyes. 
 
You'd think this would stop me. You'd think this would be some sort of wake up call to me. YOU'D THINK. 
 
But you know what I really did? While I genuinely was concerned for Brian's eyeballs, I only pretended to be concerned for my own. 
 
Lots of "Oh my Gods" and "That's TERRIFYING, I'm taking my contacts out like, RIGHT NOW." But did I really? Did I actually drag my lazy, cocky fingers over my eyeballs so as to sweep my goopy contacts out of my eyes? Nope. I left them in for another month.
 
Everyone say it together now: YOU WERE STUPID. 
 
The only thing that got me to the eye doctor was that he wouldn't refill my prescription without an eye exam. So I went, already armed with my usual lie of "Oh, sometimes I forget to take my contacts out, but yeah, I take them out every night."
 
The doctor, unlike me, was not stupid. 
 
After commenting that my contacts were quite cloudy (one more thing I was just used to), he asked me to take them out so he could look at my naked eyes. Upon taking my contacts out, the dry air of the office immediately made my eyes tear up. 
 
"Are your eyes sensitive?" 
 
"Oh, just a little. I'm tired," I answered lamely. More than concern about my eyes, I felt like I was about to get in trouble for something like not cleaning my room, er, eyeballs. 
 
"Hmm." The doctor furrowed his brow. "You don't take your contacts out very often do you?"
 
I told him my lie about "sometimes I forget," trying to sound breezy, but I knew he wasn't buying it. 
 
"It looks like you have a minor infection in your left eye, and what looks like an overgrowth of bacteria in both eyes."
 
"OK," I answered, just wanting him to hurry it up and give me my new prescription after I promised to be good. 
 
"This isn't good. Your eyes are in bad shape," and he went on to describe something about how the top layer of my eyeballs were "rubbed thin," how there were "dead corneal cells" in my eyes, and "loss of vision" could occur if I didn't knock off my lackadaisical eyeball maintenance. I wish I could be more precise as to what my doctor said, but that point all I was hearing was "Oh no, oh no, oh no, my eyes are going to fall out of my head."
 
Don't worry, they didn't. But suffice it to say, if it hadn't been for my eye doctor refusing to refill my contact lens prescription and also scaring the crap out of me, my eyeballs might have gelatinized into a puddle of goo and bacteria by now. 
 
Or they might look like this:
 
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Photo courtesy of mic.com

 
I know, I know, I know. I'm sorry. But consider this a public service. 
 
A student in Taiwan, Lian Kao, left her contact lenses in her eyes for six months straight -- SIX MONTHS STRAIGHT -- and this is what happened to her. Kao's eyes became infected by a single cell amoeba, Acanthamoeba, which destroyed her corneas. 
 
Basically she came into contact with the amoeba which can be found in "soil, dust, showers, and even swimming pools," and it began to feast upon the bacteria living between her eyeball and the contact lens. But the parasite didn't stop there. It continued to burrow down into Kao's eyes, EATING HER CORNEAS. 
 
By the time Kao realized something was wrong, probably due to "pain, eye redness and blurred vision," her condition, known as Acanthamoeba keratitis, had progressed too far and she went blind. 
 
BECAUSE HER CORNEAS HAD BEEN EATEN. 
 
So listen up kids, take your contacts out when you're supposed to, clean them when they get dirty, don't be a lazy piece of crap like I was, and at the first sign of eyeball-eating amoebas, GO TO THE DOCTOR. 
 
Okay, fess up, do any of you wear your contacts for way longer than you're supposed to? Have you ever? Any cautionary tales? Tell us the dirty details.