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A lad has revealed why you should never fall asleep with contact lenses in.
Mike Krumholz lost his vision to a rare flesh eating parasite after leaving his contact lenses in while he slept.
The 21-year-old, from Florida, US, decided to have a quick 40 minute nap after a busy day at his part-time job looking after children.
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In his seven years of wearing contact lenses, Mike was no stranger to getting the odd eye infection or 'pink eye' if he forgot to take them out.
But he never thought he would be diagnosed with acanthamoeba keratitis – a rare flesh eating parasite that is feeding away at his right eye.
He can no longer work, or resume his university studies, and has been sitting in almost complete darkness for more than 50 days since that dreaded 40 minute nap on December 19th 2022.
Mike spoke to us wearing dark sunglasses on video call in a blacked out room only dimly lit by the computer screen – and shared that darkness has become his new reality.
"In my bedroom I have the hurricane shutters up and all the lights blacked out," Mike exclusively told Daily Star.
"It goes from doing all these activities with these kids, playing around and teaching them something to I couldn’t even watch the Super Bowl on my phone – it’s rough.
“My family are great, my mum has been taken time off work but I can’t even hang out in the living room with her. My family have been really supportive financially.
“It’s very very weird not being able to see people. You don’t want people to feel bad for you but at the same time you want to be living like a 21-year-old who is in college."
Although Mike prides himself on being mentally strong and "proud" of his pain tolerance, nothing could have prepared him for the physical pain he has endured.
“I could not explain one pain like this in my life," Mike candidly shared. "The pain is more from the back of my eye, all the way up [from the back of my head] and goes down [to the front].
“It’s like a constant shock, it’s a constant pain. I’m pretty proud of my pain tolerance but I have been screaming in pain.
"The first two weeks I was diagnosed with this, there is no pain like it at all.
"I wish that I was exaggerating."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) just one to 33 cases per million contact lens wearers in 'developed countries' are diagnosed with the rare acanthamoeba keratitis. So the serious infection may be mistaken for something more common, just like in Mike's case.
Although Mike first left his contacts in just before Christmas, it took over a month and seven medical professionals later for him to receive the correct diagnosis – which proved detrimental to the recovery of his eye.
“I went to work and after that I took a 40 to 45 minute nap," Mike reflected on the dreaded day.
"My contacts just felt really irritated like they were floating in my eye. I took them out and there was nothing wrong.
"So the next morning I woke up, I went to play baseball and I had to take my contacts out like right away.
"I told my parents ‘I gotta go to the eye doctor, something isn’t right’.
"I thought I had pink eye or something and he [the doctor] took a picture of the back of my eye after dilating – and he was like something is not right."
Mike then received a text from his doctor who believed that he had the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) so proceeded to refer him to an eye specialist.
Five ophthalmologists and two cornea specialists later, Mike was still diagnosed with herpes simplex 1 virus – although he wasn’t sure how he would have got that.
And Mike's confusion was not unwarranted.
After he was prescribed with antibiotics and then steroids, the latter did more harm than good as it sped up the rate in which the parasite was spreading.
"They [the doctors started doing these tests and they thought I had herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1)and thought it would go away in a month or so," Mike explained.
"But they [the doctors] treated it and it got worse and worse and worse everyday. You can get it from when you had a cold sore as a kid and I never had anything so I was just really confused but I was going with the flow.
"So they gave me steroids for it and steroids multiple infections – and then they have to deal with culture. They scraped the eye and did a test.
"On January 21st they called me back saying I have acanthamoeba keratitis."
Since Mike received correct diagnosis at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, he underwent photodynamic therapy (which is also used with cancer patients) with conjunctival flap surgery where surgeons take the 'white' of Mike's eye and put it over his pupil to give it a chance to fight the parasite.
However, the university student currently has no vision in his right eye except for apart from “black and grey flashing” to which he compared it to the static of a TV.
And due to parasite eating away so much of his eye, the future of Mike's vision is not a bright one.
"The pupil is covered – I don’t have one right now, you can’t see it," Mike explained.
"That’s because the cornea is so cloudy and that’s because the ampea (parasite) has eaten away so much of it. They said [the doctors] that I’m not eligible right now for an eye transplant because I‘m 21-years-old so I’m younger and my body wouldn’t handle it.
"My eye is too inflamed to take human tissue from another eye, my body wouldn’t accept it right now and I would need another transplant so it would just keep getting worse and worse.
"But the transplant, if I’m ever eligible for it, it will hopefully give me at least 50% or something so that I’ll be able to see a little bit."
Left in the dark about the future of his eyesight, Mike has been busy raising awareness on TikTok about how dangerous it can be to leave contact lenses in while you sleep – or even shower with them in.
He has racked up over 20,000 followers and millions of views to squeamish yet grateful users who are realising that using contact lenses correctly is incredibly important.
Mike voiced: "There’s a lot of people that wear contacts right now who have said ‘hey I’ve just slept in my contacts, should I go to the doctor?’
"I used to sleep in my contacts with no issues but I’m trying to get the word out there that is issues with it.
"It’s not ok now."
According to charity Fight for Sight, the common risk factors include:
- Use of reusable contact lenses
- Disinfecting contact lenses incorrectly – such as by using tap water or non-sterile solutions
- Reusing solutions in the lens storage case
- Failing to empty and dry the lens storage case properly after use
- Poor lens handling hygiene – such as putting lenses in with wet hands after washing them in tap water
- Swimming, using a hot tub or taking a shower while wearing lenses
- The eyes coming into contact with contaminated water
- An injury to the cornea (such as a scratch or abrasion)
The young lad is currently raising money to help support him while he fights the debilitating parasite. He has already raised $800 (£660) out of his $10,000 (£8,264) goal.
The GoFund me page can be found here.
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