THE RISE in number of Acanthamoeba keratitis cases appeared so suddenly that it took many ophthalmologists by surprise.
The first case in the United States was reported in 1973 in a south Texas rancher. Then, between 1973 and 1984, 31 cases were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta (MMWR 1986;35:405-408). And that figure does not include the recent cases being reported in this issue of JAMA.
In these cases, contact lenses are the culprit. Ophthalmologists say that the convenience and comfort of soft contact lenses lead wearers to take them for granted and become lax in their care routines. Users may forget to take them out, or run water from the faucet on them when cleaning, or put a fallen contact in their mouth to moisten it before returning it to their eye.
James McCulley, MD, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Texas