Underwater Warning - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Underwater Warning

With summer just around the corner, many people are getting ready to take a dip, but beware because there are dangers lurking in the water.

Optometrists are warning people who wear contacts about the different bacteria's and organisms in the waters. 

“Anytime you wear your contacts and you're in the water, then you've got a chance of getting foreign objects under the lens,” Dr. Terry Kirkland, Associate at Hayley Eye Clinic said.

The contact lens acts like a lid holding everything together.  Many people experience irritation after going into the water, but certain bacteria and organisms can cause serious long term effects, including losing your eyesight.

 One organism that is concerning, is Acanthamoeba.  The problem is it in everything.  It is in the lakes, pools, basically everywhere there is water.  However, the bigger problem is if you catch it.  Dr. Kirkland said it is very hard to kill.

“The protocol for treating somebody who has ancanthamoeba karatitis is just unbelievable,” he said.

He said one of the problems they run into is when people going swimming and then sleep in their contacts.  This increases the risk of infection.  Another issue is people not using their cases properly.

“A lot of people top off their cases,” Dr. Kirkland said, “They just keep what solution is in there and put a little more in.”

Instead, people should rise out the case everyday with hot water and get a new case every month.  This lessens the chance of bacteria in the case.

As far as taking a swim, the best thing you can do is to not go in the water with your contacts in.  However, this is not always possible since there are people who cannot see without them.

“If a person does go swimming in their contacts, they need to get out, put some drops in, loosen the lens up, and then slip them off and clean them and sterilize them again,” he said.

Even then you should still monitor your eyes.  This is because the timing of your symptoms will vary depending on the waters you were in, and how long the organism has been there.

Many people will mistake the problem as just an infection, or pink eye.  Dr. Kirkland said when this happens sometimes people ignore it, or they put visine in their eye.  However, the problem will get worse.

So, if you notice redness or inflammation after being in the water, see an optometrist as soon as you can.  As Dr. Kirkland said, it is better to be safe than sorry.

“If it's not a big deal, fine, we're good and away we go, but if it is, we want to start treatment as soon as possible,” he said.

Treatment options will vary depending on how bad it is.  It could be as simple as getting antibiotics, but if they suspect it is acanthamobea karatitis, you will be sent to a specialist.

“They possibly could do a corneal transplant to try to restore the vision, but that has its own drawbacks,” Dr. Kirkland said.

So be careful before taking a swim.

Alexandra McClung, Newschannel 6
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