Woman left in ‘excruciating pain’ and partially blind due to dirty makeup bag

Woman left in ‘excruciating pain’ and partially blind due to dirty makeup bag

A personal trainer who was partially blinded after she got a bacterial eye infection from her dirty makeup bag has warned others of the risks.

Laura Hawkins, 24, was travelling in Australia when she awoke one morning in “excruciating pain” and unable to open her right eye.

Unbeknownst to her, her contact lenses, which had been kept inside her makeup bag, had picked up bacteria which was then transferred to her eye.

The germs caused a huge ulcer on her cornea that required immediate medical attention and could have blinded her, if left untreated.

The young woman from Bristol has now been left with extreme scarring on her cornea and partial blindness in her right eye.

“I'd been wearing contact lenses for a good few years before this and never had any problem but I also didn't know the risk of wearing them,” she said.

“I always cleaned my hands before and after putting the contact lenses in, I used the saline solution as you're supposed to and put the pot into my make up bag sealed shut.”

The personal trainer before her infection (Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS)
The personal trainer before her infection (Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS)

Despite her precautions, Ms Hawkins was still infected.

“I just woke up one morning and I couldn't physically open my eye,” she revealed. “Even just a tiny bit of light getting in my eye would feel like a burning or stabbing pain.”

Ms Hawkins asked someone from her hostel to drive her to A&E, where she saw an ophthalmologist who diagnosed her with a corneal ulcer.

“It was so painful,” she said. “I thought 'oh my God, this is horrible', it was really scary.

“They said they had to treat it quickly because if they left it any longer, it could get way more severe and could even leave me blind.

“I'd never actually stayed in a hospital before and then I was in for a week with my eye with nobody to come see me. The time difference was pretty bad as well so I could barely talk to my family.”

After a course of strong painkillers and eye drops, the 24-year-old had to endure doctors scraping bacterial cells from her eye for testing.

Now, back in the UK, she has been left with bad scarring and is awaiting a referral for a corneal transplant.

The affected eye (Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS)
The affected eye (Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS)

She said: “My vision hasn't returned. My peripheral vision and central to the right vision in my right eye, it's now like there's a white sheet over it.

“I can't really see that well out of that eye, and especially when it's night time and there's bright lights, I just can't see. I tried driving at night and I just can't do that now.

“What the doctors think happened is that either I scratched my eye taking the lenses out or the contact lens itself was contaminated.”

She now thinks that there should be more pre-warning before contact lenses are issued.

“Nobody warned me what could happen - they told me the importance of cleaning my hands and using the saline solution, which I always did, but they never said that this could happen.”

Specsavers clinical services director, Giles Edmonds, says: “Clean, dry hands should always be used when putting in and taking out lenses and always rub, rinse and store your lenses in the recommended solution.

“You need to be mindful of where you store your lens case too as it can easily pick up bacteria in its surroundings which can result in red eyes, irritation or even infection.

“For example, if you keep your lenses in a makeup bag, which is a breeding ground for bacteria, always be sure to wash your hands after opening the case and before handling your lenses. Don't forget to clean your case regularly too as advised by your optician.”

Additional reporting by SWNS