A swimmer was left fearing she would go blind after a parasite bore into her right eye after she took a dip in a lake while wearing contact lenses.
Fitness fanatic Sue O’Shaughnessy, 38, started open swimming during lockdown while her local pool was closed.
She swam in her goggles in a lake near her home but on August 2 she woke up with a stabbing pain in her right eye.
Sue went to hospital where she was diagnosed with suspected acanthamoeba keratitis, an infection of the cornea.
The infection, which is caused by a tiny parasite found in water, burrowed into her eye and doctors said she was lucky not to lose her sight.
Accountant Sue, who has two grown-up step-children, is now warning contact lens wearers not to swim in open water.
Sue, of Pershore, Worcs., said: “I had severe pain in my eye.
“It was incredibly red. I knew it wasn’t conjunctivitis. It was really sore and painful if I went anywhere near a bright light.
“Alarm bells started ringing. I made a big fuss about it to the doctors and got myself seen straight away at the eye hospital in Kidderminster.
“The first thing he thought it could be was this acanthamoeba because there were so many red flags. A) I wear extended wear lenses which you put in and sleep with them in for up to a month. B) I do open water swimming.
“It was terrified when a surgeon told me the worst case scenario would be to have her eye removed.
“Fitness is a very important part of my life and I started open water swimming when my local pool closed due to the lockdown.
“Apparently the infection affects one in 10,000 contact lens wearers which might not sound very much but if you consider how many millions of people wear them, the risks are actually quite high.”
Sue is now suffering with very blurred sight and worries she has permanently lost some vision in her right eye.
She had eye scrapings taken from her cornea to diagnose the condition.
Although she’s still waiting for the results, the surgeon said he will be treating it as acanthamoeba keratitis.
She is currently taking four different eye drops to kill the amoeba as well as antibiotics
for the bacteria on which the amoeba feeds.
Sue said: “The drops are like rubbing raw chilli on your eye.
“For the first 48 hours, three of them had to be taken every hour including when I’d usually be asleep.
“Now, I only have to take them during waking hours. It’s quite a commitment putting these eye drops in.”
The fitness enthusiast, who cycles daily and runs and goes swimming once a week, has been wearing contact lenses for 25 years and she says exercise is a big part of her mental wellbeing.
She added: “A lot of people wear contact lenses for sport, such as swimming, because it’s far more convenient and comfortable than wearing glasses.
“I naively thought that wearing goggles was sufficient protection, and I want to make sure other people don’t make the same mistake.
“These are things that all opticians warn you about as a soft contact lens wearer, but it’s only when you get the infection that you realise how bad it is.
“It’s one of these things where I might just be incredibly unlucky, or it might have been an accident waiting to happen.
“You can pick up this infection from showering in your lenses and from swimming in a chlorinated pool.”