People should put on protective eyewear when participating in water sports or outdoor activities in the rain to prevent microsporidia infection of the eyes, an ophthalmologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital said on Monday.
Citing a case as an example, General Ophthalmology Division head Lin Pei-yu (林佩玉) said a 32-year-old man who worked at a construction site was washing the exterior walls on Nov. 29 last year when he felt something enter his eye in a gust of wind.
His eye remained uncomfortable even though he thought he had removed the object, so he went to see a doctor at a clinic in the evening.
The man still felt uncomfortable the next day, and was given antibiotics and steroids by the doctor on his second visit, but his eye turned red and his vision became more blurry, so he sought treatment at the hospital on Dec. 7 last year.
Lin said the man was diagnosed with microsporidia eye infection and his visual acuity had fallen to 20/100, but after treatment his vision recovered to 20/20.
Lin said microsporidia (a group of spore-forming unicellular parasites) are larger than bacteria and are capable of infecting animal cells, but when they have no animal host, they exist in water or dirt, and the human eye can be infected and develop keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) when it comes into contact with contaminated water.
She said early symptoms of microsporidia eye infection are similar to acute conjunctivitis, but the treatment method is different and steroid eye drops can worsen the condition, so if people have been exposed to dirty water or dirt they should mention it to the doctor when seeking treatment.
Among patients who were diagnosed with microsporidia eye infection at the division, possible infection sources included swimming pools, playing golf, gardening in the rain, washing a fish tank and playing on grass, Lin said, adding that the disease was more often diagnosed in April and May, and in August and September.
She said medical research showed that microsporidia were detected in about 50 percent of outdoor public foot spas, but in less than 10 percent of indoor private baths.
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