Woman dealing with rare eye infection; doctors say contacts could be to blame

A woman in Nebraska says she has been battling a rare infection in her eye after she went to the lake. (Source: WOWT)
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 8:58 PM EDT
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GRETNA, Neb. (WOWT/Gray News) - A brain-eating amoeba killed a young boy last month in Nebraska, and now a woman said the same type of microorganism is in her eye.

Tiffani Zeleny said she receives several deliveries of medicine for the bug that got in her eye.

Acanthamoeba keratitis is a horrible infection,” she said. “We are very optimistic that a miracle can happen, and my eye can be saved.”

But that involves a constant regimen of drugs she carefully administers herself. She said she has to use about 60 eye drops a day.

“Eighty-five percent of acanthamoeba infections are associated with contact lenses,” said Dr. Ron Krueger, director of Truhlsen Eye Institute of Nebraska Medicine.

Having worn soft contacts since the third grade, Zeleny said she wore her contacts while riding an inner tube this summer at a lake.

“I didn’t put my head underwater, but I may have been splashed,” she said.

Zeleny said she also did some yard work that could have caused the infection.

“I helped tear down an old fence and cut some trees without any safety glasses,” she said.

Dr. Mike Feilmeier, a corneal surgeon at Midwest Eye Care, said those who wear soft contacts should clean them properly, not sleep in them and try to avoid wearing them when swimming.

“I would say over the past 15 years, maybe, I’ve seen five or six cases this severe,” Feilmeier said.

With her sister-in-law driving, Zeleny has been traveling four hours about once a week to the University of Iowa, where a prognosis of a corneal transplant is a possibility.

“If I get to save my eye, I’d like to wear contacts again. I’ll just be much more careful,” Zeleny said.

And to fight the amoeba that infected her eye, Zeleny said she needs seven different formulas of eye drops. A GoFundMe has been set up to help pay the costs, which she said are out of pocket.