Irenie Ekkeshis: raising awareness of acanthamoeba keratitis
7 January 2020
Irenie contracted acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) from her contact lenses. To raise awareness of the dangers of contact lens wear, she organised a sponsored coffee morning.
When Irenie began suffering from excruciating pain, vision loss and sensitivity to light, she knew something was wrong.
After three days, Irenie was diagnosed with acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), a serious infection caused by a microscopic organism that is usually found in bodies of water.
In the end, she was left completely blind in one eye.
What is acanthamoeba keratitis (AK)?
Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) is an infection of the cornea, caused by a microscopic organism. It is very rare, extremely painful, and can cause permanent visual impairment or even blindness.
AK is usually found in bodies of water such as rivers, swimming pools. It can even be found in soil and air.
Little is known about this condition and it can be difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms are similar to other microbial corneal infections.
Around 85 per cent of AK cases are associated with contact lens wear
AK affects just 125 people per year in the UK
There are currently no licensed medicines to treat it. It is also particularly difficult to treat because it is resistant to many forms of therapy such as antibiotics.
Irenie’s campaign - ‘No Water’
After researching what happened to her, Irenie was struck by how little is known about AK and realised that victims of the infection are often blamed for getting it.
She explains, “Victims tend to be labelled as unhygienic, uncompliant wearers who ignore widespread advice on safe contact lens wear – as if we’re irresponsibly playing Russian Roulette with our eyesight.”
To change this, Irenie decided to start a campaign to raise awareness of AK and the risks that come with wearing contact lenses.
She launched a ‘No Water’ in 2011 and turned her life-changing event into a positive opportunity to help others and bring change to the contact lens industry. She has since won many awards for her extensive work.
Fundraising - Irenie’s coffee morning
In November 2016, Irenie invited Moorfields Eye Charity (MEC) to a coffee morning she had organised with the Cypriot Estia in London.
MEC shared about the amazing work that happens at the hospital and highlighted how important fundraising events are for supporting work that changes lives to people struggling with sight problems.
The coffee morning was a great success, raising a huge £2,198.
Well done, Irenie, and thank you!