CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - It’s about that time of year when you can finally start swimming outside.
But doctors are warning people to protect their eyes when they’re swimming because they could get an infection that can lead to blindness in some cases.
The infection is from a type of amoeba called Acanthamoeba keratitis, or AK, which is the subject of a recent study by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. According to the study, AK is difficult to kill.
The study found that, while AK is still fairly rare, the chances someone becomes infected with it in Iowa are much greater than researchers initially thought.
This is especially true for people who wear contact lenses.
The amoeba lives in dirt and water, so people can come into contact with it if they’re around dirt and water, especially in open bodies of waters like lakes and rivers.
Because of this, eye doctors recommend people don’t wear contact lenses while swimming or showering, and they should never rinse them with tap water.
“The biggest symptom is pain, just lots of eye pain. The eye will be red. The vision will be blurry. The eye might be a little bit goopy,” said Dr. Kacie Monroe, an optometrist with Dr. D.M. Fitzgerald and Associates in Cedar Rapids.
Dr. Monroe said anyone who wears contacts should always wash their hands before or after they put lenses in or take them out.
She added that even people who don’t wear contacts can be infected with the amoeba if they have any type of scratch on their eye.