Reusable contact lenses more than triple the risk of contracting this rare eye infection

Reusable contact lenses more than triple the risk of contracting this rare eye infection

Your risk of getting a rare eye infection increases nearly fourfold if you wear reusable soft contact lenses compared to disposable soft ones. Those are the grim findings of research led by the University College London (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital, where researchers have been investigating what factors may increase a person’s risk of being diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis (QA).

“In recent years we have seen an increase in Acanthamoeba keratitis in the UK and Europe, and although infection is still rare, it is preventable and warrants a public health response,” lead researcher Professor John Dart said in a statement.

“Contact lenses are generally very safe, but they are associated with a small risk of microbial keratitis, most commonly caused by bacteria, which is the only sight-threatening complication of contact lens wear. Since approximately 300 million people worldwide wear contact lenses, it is important that people know how to minimize the risks of developing keratitis.”

Dart and his colleagues recruited more than 200 patients, 83 of whom had AK while the other 122 were taken to Moorfields Eye Hospital for other conditions. The latter acted as a control group so that the researchers could try to establish which risk factors increased a person’s chance of getting the corneal infection.

Their results showed that reusable soft contact lens wearers were 3.8 times more likely to develop AK compared to daily disposable lens wearers. Sleeping and showering with lenses also increased the risk by 3.9 and 3.3 times, respectively. Based on their estimates, the researchers found that between 30 and 62 perfect cases of AK in the UK could be prevented by switching to daily disposable lenses, which could also be the case in other countries.

“Previous studies have linked AK to contact lens wear in hot tubs, pools or lakes, and here we’ve added showers to that list, underscoring that exposure to water should be avoided when wearing lenses,” said the first author, Associate Professor Nicole. Carnt of the University of New South Wales, Sydney, and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital. “Public swimming pools and coastal authorities could help reduce this risk by advising against swimming with contact lenses.”

While vision loss from AK is rare, it can occur in severe cases, so the team wanted to further investigate possible risk factors. In the UK, around 1 in 20,000 contact lens wearers are diagnosed with AK annually, but the team hopes that simple interventions could help reduce that statistic.

“Contact lens packaging should include lens safety and hazard prevention information, even as simple as ‘no water’ stickers on each case, particularly given that many people buy their lenses online without speaking to a health professional,” Dart concluded.

“Basic contact lens hygiene measures can go a long way in preventing infection, such as thoroughly washing and drying your hands before inserting your lenses.”

The article is published in Ophthalmology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.