A SWIMMER who almost lost an eye by wearing contact lenses in open water is warning others not to make the same mistake.

Sue O’Shaughnessy, aged 38, has been diagnosed with suspected acanthamoeba keratitis, an infection of the cornea, and was lucky not to lose her right eye.

During the coronavirus lockdown, Mrs O’Shaughnessy, who works for our sister paper the Worcester News, enjoyed open water swimming, wearing goggles over contact lenses, but on Sunday August 2 her eye became painful.

Mrs O’Shaughnessy said: “I had severe pain in my eye. It was incredibly red. I knew it wasn’t conjunctivitis. It was really sore and painful if I went anywhere near a bright light.

“Alarm bells started ringing. I made a big fuss about it to the doctors and got myself seen straight away at the eye hospital in Kidderminster.

“The first thing he thought it could be was this acanthamoeba because there were so many red flags. A) I wear extended wear lenses which you put in and sleep with them in for up to a month. B) I do open water swimming.”

Sue said she was terrified when a surgeon told her the worst case scenario would be to have her eye removed.

The infection of the cornea and is caused by a microscopic organism called acanthamoeba, which is common in nature and is usually found in bodies of water (lakes, oceans and rivers) as well as domestic tap water, swimming pools, hot tubs, soil and air.

Mrs O’Shaughnessy is now suffering with very blurred sight and worries she has permanently lost some vision in her right eye – which ironically was her stronger eye.

She had eye scrapings taken from her cornea to diagnose the condition. Although she’s still waiting for the results, the surgeon said he will be treating it as acanthamoeba keratitis.

She is currently taking four different eye drops to kill the amoeba as well as antibiotics for the bacteria on which the amoeba feeds.

Mrs O’Shaughnessy, from Pershore, described putting the drops in as like “rubbing raw chilli on your eye.”

She added: “For the first 48 hours, three of them had to be taken every hour including when I’d usually be asleep.

“Now, I only have to take them during waking hours. It’s quite a commitment putting these eye drops in.”

The fitness enthusiast, who cycles daily and runs and goes swimming once a week, has been wearing contact lenses for 25 years and she says exercise is a big part of her mental wellbeing.

She said she’s struggled psychologically since the damage to her eye because she’s had to stay in a dark room, hasn’t been able to exercise and was forced to take a week off work because the screen agitated her sensitive eye.

She added: “A lot of people wear contact lenses for sport, such as swimming, because it’s far more convenient and comfortable than wearing glasses.

“I naively thought that wearing goggles was sufficient protection, and I want to make sure other people don’t make the same mistake.

“These are things that all opticians warn you about as a soft contact lens wearer, but it’s only when you get the infection that you realise how bad it is.

“It’s one of these things where I might just be incredibly unlucky, or it might have been an accident waiting to happen.

“You can pick up this infection from showering in your lenses and from swimming in a chlorinated pool.”