In 2006, an outbreak of an unusual and rare eye disease called Fusarium keratitis affected contact lens wearers around the world. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received more than 200 reports of the disease. These high numbers serve to emphasize the importance of good visual hygiene, especially if you wear contacts.
What Causes Fungal Eye Infections?
Fusarium keratitis, also called fungal keratitis, occurs when a fungus invades the cornea. Your cornea covers the front of the eye, acting as protection for the pupil and iris and aiding in focus. Multiple kinds of fungi can infect the cornea, resulting in disease. Some come from the surrounding environment, and others live on or in your body, cohabitating peacefully the majority of the time. When an infection occurs, these fungi cause corneal inflammation and put you at risk for vision loss.
Fungal keratitis may present with:
• Eye pain or redness
• Redness or swelling of the eyelid
• Blurred vision
• Excessive tears
• Eye discharge
• Fluid accumulation in the cornea
• Visible dry ulcer
This particular fungal infection isn’t contagious, so you can’t catch it from someone else or spread it to other people. However, due to the relative rarity of the disease, it’s important to see your eye doctor if you develop any of these symptoms. They may be signs of a different type of infection.
Since this disease is caused by a fungus, antifungal medications are the most common form of treatment. Doctors may prescribe a topical preparation, an oral medication or both. Cases that don’t clear up within a few months may require surgery.
In the event of a serious infection, the entire cornea may need to be replaced via a corneal transplant. Eradicating the fungus is essential to avoid potential blindness. Given how critical this disease can be, prevention is the best approach to preserve eye health.
Preventing Fungal Keratitis
One potential cause of a fungal infection in your eyes is trauma, especially contact with the sharp parts of plants. Thorns, leaf edges, twigs and stems may all carry environmental fungi. If you work outdoors, walk in deep woods or perform any activity putting you in close quarters with plant life, invest in a good set of protective glasses or goggles.
The other major cause of infection is poor hygiene practices among contact lens wearers. Although it’s not clear whether the cleaning solution itself may have played a role in the 2006 outbreak, part of the problem was a failure to change the solution on a regular basis. Fresh contact lens solution should be used daily. Choose a type requiring rubbing to get your lenses as clean as possible. “No-rub” may be more convenient, but it leaves out the important step of gently “scrubbing” off the pathogens lurking on lens surfaces.
Taking care of your contact lenses greatly reduces your risk for infections, including Fusarium keratitis. Stick with your eye health regimen to preserve vision and prevent damage throughout your life.
Want to learn more about how to protect your eyes?
CorrectVision Laser Institute is one of Florida’s most advanced practices for vision impairments with extensive experience in LASIK. Our goal is to open your eyes to the world of great vision by offering unparalleled expertise and the most advanced technology available.
Contact us today for a consultation with one of our South Florida eye specialists, located in Hollywood, Weston and Pembroke Pines!