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Originally published July 20 2014

Woman goes blind after wearing contact lenses for six months - follow these tips to ensure healthy eyes

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A Taiwanese woman has lost her sight after developing an infection behind her contact lenses that literally consumed the surface of her eyeballs. It was later discovered that the woman had worn her disposable contact lenses for six months, without removing them once.

When 23-year-old undergraduate Lian Kao went in to see doctors about the trouble with her eyes, they were shocked to find that a variety of amoeba known as Acanthamoeba had gotten beneath her contact lenses and tunneled all the way through her corneas. It was too late to correct the damage and save her vision.

"While an amoeba burrowing into one's cornea is certainly an extreme case, we want people to realize the importance of using contact lenses as prescribed," said ophthalmologist Tim Hillson of Ontario. "Because they are worn directly on the eye, contacts create an environment that could lead to infections, corneal ulcers and, in rare cases, blindness."

Amoeba burrowed into cornea

While the infection that Kao suffered, known as Acanthamoeba keratitis, is rare, eye infections are a common result of failing to remove and clean contact lenses regularly (after eight hours of use, at the most).

"Most people don't get Acanthamoeba," Hillson said. "It's usually common bacteria like staphylococcus aureus or other skin organisms."

In addition, lenses should always be removed when swimming, showering or washing. Kao had not removed her lenses at all for six months, even when swimming.

Acanthamoeba and numerous other microbes can survive pools, hot tubs or tap water. The space behind a contact lens and the eye can then provide them with the perfect conditions for growth.

"Contact lens wearers are a high-risk group that can easily be exposed to eye diseases," said Wu Jian-liang, director of ophthalmology at Wan Fang Hospital in Taipei. "A shortage of oxygen can destroy the surface of the epithelial tissue, creating tiny wounds into which the bacteria can easily infect, spreading to the rest of the eye and providing a perfect breeding ground.

'The girl should have thrown the contact lenses away after a month but instead she overused them and has now permanently damaged her corneas.'

Although Kao's behavior was extreme, similar problems to hers can develop over time even if contact lenses are being removed, if they are not removed often enough or are not properly cleaned. It can take years for an eye infection to develop to the point where a person notices pain or other symptoms, but by then it can be hard to reverse. Severe cases may require a corneal transplant, which has a high failure rate and can itself cause blindness.

Keep your eyes healthy

In addition to taking care of your contact lenses, you can improve the health of your eyes by eating the right foods. Your mother was right when she told you that carrots were good for your eyes: like all yellow, orange and orange-red vegetables, carrots are high in the group of plant chemicals known as carotenoids, which play an important role in eye health.

Of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin are considered among the most important for protecting vision. One study found that people who ate more lutein and zeaxanthin were significantly less likely to suffer from macular degeneration as they aged. Evidence has also linked these chemicals to the prevention of cancer and heart disease.

Foods high in lutein include carrots, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, turnip greens, spinach, zucchini, pistachios, kiwifruit and hard-boiled eggs. Foods high in zeaxanthin include goji berries, paprika, saffron and spirulina.

In addition to being high in carotenoids, green leafy vegetables are also high in vitamin C, which also acts to protect the health of the eyes.

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