Mum faces vision loss after simple shower mistake: 'Excruciating pain'

Rachel Prochnow had to take a myriad of medications while suffering with the severe eye infection.

Rachel Prochnow takes a selfie which shows her eye visibly different than the unaffected one (left) and she smiling with sunglasses on while holding her baby (right).
Rachel Prochnow lost vision in her eye after showering while wearing contact lenses. Source: Instagram

A woman is urging others not to shower, swim or bathe while wearing contact lenses after being in "excruciating pain" for months and facing potential vision loss in one eye from taking a simple shower.

Rachel Prochnow was 34 weeks pregnant when she felt her eye was a "little bit scratchy" last year, initially thinking her contact lens had just ripped while she was at the gym. However, it wasn't until the following day when she started to feel intense pain and suffered light sensitivity that she went to an optometrist.

She was then diagnosed with the "worst infection you can get in your eye" — Acanthamoeba keratitis.

Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) is caused by parasites that are found in almost all types of water, from tap water to seawater and chlorinated water, as well as soil. These parasites burrow into the eye through any little scratches on the eye surface and pose significant health risks.

"The pain that comes with AK makes giving birth look like a walk in the freaking park. The pain was absolutely unreal," the American woman said on Instagram. "For three months, the most sleep I got at a time was 30 minutes. I had five different around-the-clock drops that had to be five minutes apart."

Prochnow's pregnancy had to be induced three weeks later and she has since received a "cancer drug" and fortnightly blood work to monitor her renal activity, with the AK putting her at risk of kidney failure. She had no idea of the risks involved with wearing contact lenses while bathing.

"I had been wearing contacts since I was 12 and was never told not to swim, shower, or hot tub in them," she said. She is unable to see out of her eye and there was talk of a cornea transplant. It is uncertain if she will lose vision in her eye permanently.

Rachel Prochnow holding her eyelids apart to show the damage on her eye (left) and sitting on the couch with her new baby (right).
Prochnow had to navigate life as a new mum while facing 'excruciating pain' from Acanthamoeba keratitis. Source: Instagram

The infection is "rare but serious" and Australian optometrists only diagnose one or two patients in their career, Audrey Molloy from Optometry NSW told Yahoo News.

"It invades eye tissue in a devastating way... it's one of the big drivers behind daily, disposable contact lenses as these minimise the risk of water coming in contact with lenses and then someone putting it in their eye," she explained.

The pain that comes with AK is "way out of proportion to what you see in terms of a lesion on the eyes". The only way to treat it is by using disinfectants, yet it is so "robust" that even these don't always work effectively.

"It can survive freezing, it can survive boiling, even kinds of disinfectants it can survive," Molloy explained. "Contact lenses and water do not go together."

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