A flight attendant had to undergo a corneal transplant after having contracted a rare eye infection caused by swimming with her contact lenses. Englisch: www.euro.who.int/mediacentre/PR/200…guage=German.

Natalie Rance wore her lenses during a training exercise to simulate a plane in a swimming pool.

But the 24-year-old from Bristol took Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), an organism commonly found in water, with 80 percent of cases involving contact lens wearers.

She was at risk of blindness in one eye and had to undergo a full thickness cornea transplant, the outer layer of her eyeball.

Natalie also needed to have her natural eye lens removed from her right eye and also needed an artificial iris to see clearly.

She said, "I think I got infected when I was trained for a new cabin crew job and simulated a plane lying in a pool while wearing my lenses.

"It was not until I started experiencing the rapid effects of the symptoms that I learned the risks associated with wearing my lenses in the water."

She added, "I wore contact lenses from the age of 11, and paid close attention to my eyes.

"I was advised to clean them in solution after swimming, and I vaguely remember being told anything about water.

"However, I was naive in assuming that this was a condition caused by polluted water or a tropical climate, not something that could be found in tap water or swimming pools that we all consider to be safe."

AK can be found in any water, including open water, domestic tap water and some swimming pools.

And the number of acanthamoeba infections has steadily increased across the country over the past four years.

Bristol Eye Hospital, which has performed Natalie's corneal transplant, performs more than 200 such procedures each year.

Kieren Darcy, an ophthalmologist at Bristol Eye Hospital, said: "Fortunately, cases as severe as Natalie are still relatively rare.

"But her case shows how important it is that people do not have contact with their contact lenses.

"Natalie needed a corneal transplant in the Bristol Eye Hospital to save her eye.

"In severe cases, unfortunately, the inside of the eye can be affected, so they also needed an aspiration (removal) of their natural eye lens.

"Her iris (the colored part of the eye) was also affected."

Natalie needs more surgery to restore her eyesight.

Mr. Darcy continued, "The next step will be to put a special lens in your eye to replace the one we had to remove.

"She also has to have an artificial iris, so we give her the best chance to see clearly through the eye again.

"We are very happy at Bristol Eye Hospital to help patients like Natalie maintain their eyesight.

"We perform more than 200 corneal transplants a year, which would not be possible without organ and tissue donation, which we greatly appreciate."

Natalie, who is now in the final months of her masters in wildlife filmmaking at UWE, Bristol, produces a short documentary to increase awareness of AK.

She hopes to highlight the impact of AK vision loss and the importance of organ and tissue donation.

Natalie said, "My film, Second Sight, will be screened by industry experts this coming November.

"I hope to share my journey – even as I confront the water again on the Isles of Scilly to swim with gray seals – to explain to viewers what it's like to suffer from vision loss and a donated organ receive.

"I am very grateful for the medical treatment I received and will continue to receive at Bristol Eye Hospital.

"I am eternally grateful to the donor of my eye, as this would not have been possible without the incredible and selfless act of organ and tissue donation."



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