A man was blinded in one eye after a parasite burrowed its way into his eye when he showered in contact lenses.
Nick Humphreys from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, was forced to undergo two operations on his right eye and is now waiting to have a corneal transplant all because he didn’t take his lenses out to shower.
The 28-year-old journalist said he had no idea you weren’t supposed to wear lenses in the shower and if he had known of the dangers, he’d have never got them in the first place.
He started wearing glasses as a child, but in 2013 he decided to get monthly lenses to make his life easier when playing sports.
The keen footballer explained:
In my mid-twenties I really started to throw myself into exercise and at the time I thought my glasses were a massive hindrance.
When I finally got over my fear of putting contacts in, I thought they were the best thing ever.
Nick would wear the contact lenses for five days a week and wear his glasses on the other two days.
On a standard morning I’d wake up, pop my lenses in and head to the gym before work, then I’d jump in the shower before heading to the office.
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.
In January 2018, Nick noticed a scratch on his eye, but he assumed he’d done it accidentally when putting his lenses in.
However, as the week went on, it became more apparent something more serious was at work.
For a few days I used over the counter eye drops and turned all my phone and computer display settings down to the lowest brightness, which seemed to do the trick.
Eventually, Nick went to see an optician who told him he had an ulcer on his eye and recommended he get to hospital as soon as possible.
Doctors told Nick they couldn’t be sure until tests came back, but they believed it may be Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), which is an infection of the cornea, caused by an organism found in water.
I’d never heard of the infection before, but as soon as I got home I turned to Dr Google and was suddenly left thinking I was going to have my right eyeball removed.
After test results confirmed it was in fact AK, Nick used disinfectant eye drops for three weeks, which seemed to do the trick. However things took a turn for the worse when he suddenly found himself completely blind in his right eye in March 2018.
The newspaper journalist continued:
I was driving to work and my vision completely went in my right eye. I don’t know how I managed not to crash, but it didn’t take me long to realise I needed to get back to the hospital.
Nick was left housebound and his mental health began to suffer while doctors tried to figure out the best course of action.
I love my job but I physically couldn’t be outside the house.
The pain in my eye was too much and the only time I would leave was to visit the hospital.
I felt at my absolute lowest and the one thing that would cheer me up – playing football – was no longer an option.
Six months after his first diagnosis, doctors decided the only option was to perform a corneal cross linking, which involves using ultraviolet light and vitamin B2 drops to stiffen the cornea.
The operation, which took place in July last year, was a success in terms of clearing the infection, but Nick remained blind in his right eye.
Obviously, I didn’t want to be blind in my right eye, but at least, knowing the infection had gone, I could start to get my life back on track. I could finally return to work and start to hit the gym.
In September, Nick went through an amniotic membrane transplant on his right cornea at the Birmingham and West Midland Eye Centre, which was a success.
Unsurprisingly, Nick has suffered trauma as a result of his experience as he recalled:
The reality of the situation had well and truly hit me, I’d let myself go since all of this happened and I was left with a gory-looking eye I had to cover with an eye patch – looking like something out of The Exorcist.
He was referred to a counsellor by his GP and slowly but surely, he’s starting to come to terms with his condition. Now, Nick is working with charity Fight for Sight to raise awareness of the dangers of using contact lenses in the shower or while swimming.
I can honestly say if I’d had the slightest idea that this was even a remote possibility I would never have worn contacts in the first place. 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.
I’ve lost 18 months of my life because of something as simple as showering with contacts in. If I get my sight back I’ll never wear contacts again.
Instead, like Edgar Davids – the former Dutch professional footballer – I’ll wear some prescription goggles to do sport instead.
A YouGov poll for the charity found 56 per cent of people admitted to wearing their lenses longer than the recommended 12 hours a day, with a further 54 per cent saying they’d showered or swam while wearing them.
47 per cent of people said they’d slept in their contacts and 15 per cent admitted using their mouth to clean their lenses.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.