Acanthamoeba Keratitis, or AK, is a rare but serious disease involving the eye – the cornea, the clear window at the front of the eyes – that can result in partial vision loss or complete blindness.
The disease is caused by microscopic bacteria called Acanthamoeba that are commonly found in water sources and dust. Most types of Acanthamoeba are harmless to humans, but can cause a serious infection if they come in contact with the cornea. If this is infected or damaged, it can be very painful.
Those who wear contact lenses have a higher risk of exposure to the bacteria. Improper lens hygiene, such as using tap water to wet the lenses or not cleaning or disposing the cases, can increase the probability of infection.
AK is most common in people who wear Contact Lenses, but anyone with a corneal injury is susceptible to developing the infection.
Acanthamoeba life cycle
Acanthamoeba has a life cylce of two modes:
The trophozoite stage is an active or alive & kicking mode (when the parasite feeds, grows and replicates itself, in this stage is when you might experience a lot pain, light sensitivity and/or sometimes decrease in vision).
The cyst stage is when is a dormant or sleeping mode and does not show much activity (when the parasite protects itself from attack by developing into a cyst or as I referred to it a house – forming a protective wall around itself which helps the amoeba to survive in conditions that are not favorable for survival, in other words they go in to hibernation being able to survive for long periods of time and unfortunately one cannot predict when they will become active.
Acanthamoeba are harmless to humans, but can cause a serious infection if they come in contact with the cornea. If this is infected or damaged, it can be very painful..
Diagnosed and Treatment
Regarding treatments what we’ve experienced till now is that each doctor/country does have their own protocol. It is important the sooner you are diagnosed the better! The first weeks are very intense but vitally important to adhere to.
Usually once AK is confirmed, you will be given drops and/or pills (depends on each doctor) and you will have to take these eye drops every hour for several days 24/7, then moving to every hour (except the night) and depending on how the treatment is working they will adjust accordingly. Also, don’t underestimate the pain and ask for painkillers if needed, each person deals with pain in a different way and it is important you get some rest throughout the first weeks.
It is both difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat. So, if you wear contact lenses, have been in contact with water and are experiencing itchy, watery eyes, pain, sensitivity to light, redness and/or blurred vision – PLEASE GO TO YOUR EYE DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.
The site is put together by ex-patients of AK, not medically trained in any way. We hope you will find this information helpful but please if in any doubt ALWAYS seek advice/treatment from an ophthalmologist/corneal specialist