A 25-year-old almost lost her eye after an itchy contact lens turned out to be an ulcer caused by 'harsh' bacteria

  • Steph Carrasco needed emergency surgery when her itchy eye turned out to be a corneal ulcer.

  • Corneal ulcers are open sores on the layer of the eye that covers the iris and pupil.

  • People who wear contact lenses can be more susceptible to corneal ulcers.

A 25-year-old woman nearly lost her eye after what she thought was an itch caused by contact lenses turned out to be an ulcer.

Steph Carrasco, who is a recruitment consultant based in Wales, told Wales News Service she needed emergency cornea transplant surgery to save her eye.

An eye or corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea, which is the layer that covers the iris and pupil.

Corneal ulcers are usually caused by an infection or severe dry eye, but those who wear contact lenses may be particularly at risk if they don't clean their lenses correctly or leave them in too long, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

People who have or have had cold sores, shingles, chicken pox, use steroid eye drops, have dry eyes, or eyelid disorders that prevent proper functioning of the eyelid are also at risk, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Symptoms of corneal ulcers include redness, pain, and swelling

Common symptoms include eye redness, severe pain, the feeling of having something in your eye, pus or other discharge, swelling, and a white spot on the cornea.

Carrasco sought medical help because her eye was itchy, but her "quick thinking and thorough" optometrist, Jack Brenton, identified that it was an ulcer, and made sure she didn't leave until he had made arrangements with a hospital for immediate treatment, she said.

She spent the next week in hospital where healthcare workers tried to reduce the size of the ulcer by administering 72 eye drops a day. However, Carrasco ultimately needed surgery.

Most corneal ulcers heal within two to three weeks when treated with anti-infective eye drops, or oral medication, but in rare cases like Carrasco's, a corneal transplant is needed.

"By the time I was admitted to hospital, I could barely see. It was terrifying," Carrasco said. Hospital staff told her that the bacteria in her eye was so "harsh" that had it been left any longer, she would have lost the eye completely.

Three weeks after the surgery, Carrasco's vision has improved, and her doctors expect her to have made a full recovery by October.

"I just feel incredibly lucky to have had Jack and the hospital's medical team there to help when I needed them the most," she said.

Insider previously reported that a man who wore the same pair of lenses for three years non-stop developed permanent astigmatism and buildup behind his eyelids.

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