I was in excruciating pain, left partially blind thanks to my dirty makeup bag

i was in excruciating pain left partially blind thanks to my dirty makeup bag
i was in excruciating pain left partially blind thanks to my dirty makeup bag

It may be time to toss that old cosmetics case.

A British woman said she was in “excruciating pain,” left partially blind and now needs a corneal transplant after getting a bacterial infection in her eye, which doctors believe was because of a dirty makeup bag.

Laura Hawkins, 24, was traveling in Australia in 2020 when she awoke one morning unable to open her right eye feeling “gunky” and painful.

“I was in literally the most excruciating pain ever. It was so bad,” the Bristol, UK resident said. “I just knew something was not right.”

Despite having worn contact lenses for nearly a decade without any issues, Hawkins said she has had conjunctivitis — inflammation stemming from an eye infection — before, but “this was definitely not it.”

“I couldn’t physically open my eye,” she said. “Even just a tiny bit of light getting in my eye would feel like a burning or stabbing pain.”

She noticed that her eye had “gotten more swollen and shut over and gunky” and knew it “wasn’t good,” but she became alarmed when she had no vision.

Laura Hawkins said she woke up and couldn't open her eye.
Laura Hawkins said she woke up and couldn’t open her eye.
Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS
Laura Hawkins before her eye infection.
Laura Hawkins before her eye infection.
Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS

“I just couldn’t open my eye at all so I couldn’t tell if I could see or not,” she said.

That’s when a friend drove her to the emergency room where doctors informed her that the infection from her two-week disposable contact lenses resulted in a large ulcer growing on her cornea.

“It was a really, really big one and it was so painful,” she said. “It was really scary.”

When her eye didn't get better, she went to the emergency room.
When her eye didn’t get better, she went to the emergency room.
Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS
Doctors told her she would be blind if not treated immediately.
Doctors told her she would be blind if not treated immediately.
Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS

Worse, physicians told her she would be blind if they didn’t act fast, so she stayed in the hospital for a week as doctors scraped bacterial cells from her eye for testing.

The medical experts noted it’s likely that her contact lenses picked up bacteria from her makeup bag, since she kept her contacts case inside. While Hawkins said she always cleaned her hands before putting contact lenses in, germs were likely transferred into her eye from a scratch.

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

Doctors said her infection may have come from the transfer of germs from her dirty makeup bag.
Doctors said her infection may have come from the transfer of germs from her dirty makeup bag.
Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS
Hawkins wore an eye patch for a while after the ordeal.
Hawkins wore an eye patch for a while after the ordeal.
Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS

Hawkins now has “extreme” permanent scarring on her right eye and has just been referred for a corneal transplant in the UK, over two years after her hospitalization.

“I’ve been left with really bad scarring as it was really deep and on my vision,” she said. “Doctors said wait a year and see if the vision is any better but if not, I can have a corneal transplant.”

She eventually returned home where life has been very different being partially blind in one eye, which she said feels like “there’s a white sheet over it.”

Hawkins said she can no longer drive at night or do many other everyday tasks.
Hawkins said she can no longer drive at night or do many other everyday tasks.
Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS
Hawkins is hoping she a corneal transplant will be helpful.
Hawkins is hoping she a corneal transplant will be helpful.
Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS

“My vision hasn’t returned,” Hawkins said. “I can’t really see that well out of that eye, and especially when it’s nighttime and there’s bright lights, I just can’t see.”

Giles Edmonds, the clinical services director at Specsavers, said good hygiene habits like hand-washing and using saline when handling contacts are of the utmost importance, but so is where you store them.

Doctors said it was likely she got an infection from her dirty makeup bag.
Doctors said it was likely she got an infection from her dirty makeup bag.
Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS
Laura Hawkins
Laura Hawkins said her “vision hasn’t returned.”
Courtesy Laura Hawkins / SWNS

“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,” she said.

“A makeup bag … is a breeding ground for bacteria.”

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