U.S. doctors see a disturbing number of fungal eye infections in contact lens wearers

Doctors in the U.S. are seeing a disturbing number of fungal eye infections in contact lens wearers that are painful, difficult to treat and can cause blindness.

More than 20 patients with the disease have been treated so far this year at the University of Miami's Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which typically sees that many sufferers in an entire year. Twelve of those cases involved patients with contact lenses, while previously fewer than 2 percent of those infected wore them.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is watching the situation and said it has received reports of about 50 possible cases in 12 U.S. states this year so far. But because tracking of the disease is spotty, the CDC cannot say for certain whether cases are on the rise.

Singapore health officials noticed a spike in January and discovered 39 cases involving contact lens users from 2005 to February of this year. Cases have also been reported in Malaysia and Hong Kong.

The fungus, called fusarium, is commonly found in plant material and soil in tropical and subtropical areas. Without eyedrop treatment, which can last two to three months, the infection can scar the cornea and blind its victims.

Symptoms can include blurry vision, pain or redness, increased sensitivity to light and excessive discharge from the eye. It is not transmitted from person to person, reports AP.

According to All Headline News, the key to avoid the fungus is good hygiene. Regular washing of the hands and lenses as instructed and appropriate storage should be followed.

Symptoms to watch for are sudden blurred vision, sudden pain, or redness and irritation. If any of these symptoms persist after discontinuing lens wear, contact your ophthalmologist immediately.

The fungal condition can be treated with an anti-fungal drug to avoid any permanent damage to the eyes.

O.Ch.