Background: Acanthamoeba keratitis is an uncommon condition which is usually associated with contact lens wear. The use of home made saline and poor hygiene are important risk factors. Early diagnosis is crucial since these cases respond well to medical therapy. The purpose of this paper is to describe and demonstrate early clinical signs.
Method: Between September 1992 and October 1994, 70 cases of acanthamoeba keratitis, one of them bilateral, were prospectively monitored at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. A database of all patients was set up and the clinical findings, diagnostic methods, therapeutic interventions and the outcome were recorded.
Results: 66 patients (96%) were contact lens wearers, 64 of them (97%) wore soft lenses. The mean interval between first symptoms and correct diagnosis was 42%. The most frequent initial diagnoses were "unclear keratoconjunctivitis" and "herpetic keratitis". Early corneal findings included punctate keratopathy (n = 14; 20%), pseudodendrites (n = 4; 6%), epithelial infiltrates (n = 17; 24%), diffuse or focal sub-epithelial infiltrates (n = 36; 51%) and radial keratoneuritis (n = 5; 7%). Ring infiltrates (n = 13; 18%) and corneal ulceration (n = 13) were late signs.
Conclusion: When the above corneal findings are observed, particularly in contact lens wearers, the diagnosis of acanthamoeba keratitis should be considered. The diagnosis of "herpetic keratitis" in association with contact lens wear should be encountered with scepticism.