Your daily shower isn't usually a health risk, but for one man in England, it may have led to a serious eye infection that left him blind in one eye, according to news reports.
The man, 29-year-old Nick Humphreys of Shropshire, England, typically left his contact lenses in while showering, without knowing that this practice can increase the risk of eye infections, according to PA Media, a U.K.-based media agency. In 2018, he contracted Acanthamoeba keratitis, a rare parasitic infection of the cornea, or the eye's transparent outer covering.
"If I'd have known how dangerous it was to wear contacts in the shower, I would never have got them in the first place," Humphreys told PA Media. ['Eye' Can't Look: 9 Eyeball Injuries That Will Make You Squirm]
Acanthamoeba is a single-celled amoeba that's commonly found in water, soil and air, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Contact lens wearers face a risk of contracting this infection if they engage in certain practices, such as disinfecting lenses with tap water or swimming or showering while wearing lenses, the CDC said.
This amoeba has a particular affinity for the surfaces of contact lenses, meaning the lenses can be "a vehicle for the harboring, transmission and delivery of microorganisms to the eye," according to a 2010 review paper on the topic published in the Journal of Optometry.
But when Humphreys started wearing contact lenses in 2013 so he could play sports without glasses, he wasn't aware of this showering risk. He would often hop in the shower with his contact lenses in after a morning workout.
"I thought nothing of it at the time. I was never told not to wear contact lenses in the shower. There's no warning on the packaging, and my opticians never mentioned a risk," Humphreys said.
After he was diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis in early 2018, he was given eyedrops for his infection, but a few months later, he suddenly went blind in his right eye, according to PA Media. Humphreys was then prescribed a stronger medication, which needed to be applied to his eyes every hour, even at night. Humphreys became housebound and experienced severe pain in his right eye. "The pain in my eye was too much, and the only time I would leave was to visit the hospital," Humphreys told PA Media.
He would later undergo two operations in his right eye, the first to strengthen the tissue in his cornea and the second to protect the cornea with a graft of tissue from a fetal placenta. That procedure is known as an amniotic membrane transplant.
Although his infection cleared up, Humphreys remains blind in his right eye.
He is scheduled to undergo a corneal transplant in August. This operation replaces damaged corneal tissue with healthy corneal tissue from a deceased donor.
Humphreys now works with the charity Fight for Sight to raise awareness about the risks of showering or swimming with contact lenses.
"It's crucial that people out there know this is a reality and it can happen because of something as simple as getting in the shower," Humphreys said.
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Originally published on Live Science.