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Reusable contact lenses more than triple risk of rare preventable eye infection
People who wear reusable contact lenses are nearly four times as likely as those wearing daily disposables to develop a rare sight-threatening eye infection, finds a study led by UCL and Moorfields researchers.
Contact lens use is now the leading cause of microbial keratitis in patients with otherwise healthy eyes in countries in the global north. Sight loss resulting from microbial keratitis is uncommon but Acanthamoeba, although a rare cause, is one of the most severe and is responsible for about half of those contact lens users who develop sight loss after keratitis. 90% of Acanthamoeba keratitis or AK cases are associated with avoidable risks, although the infection remains rare, affecting fewer than 1 in 20,000 contact lens wearers per year in the UK.
AK causes the front surface of the eye, the cornea, to become painful and inflamed, due to infection by Acanthamoeba, a cyst-forming microorganism. The most severely affected patients (a quarter of the total) end up with less than 25% of vision or become blind following the disease and face prolonged treatment. Overall, 25% of people affected require corneal transplants to treat the disease or restore vision.
For the study, the researchers recruited over 200 patients of Moorfields Eye Hospital who completed a survey, including 83 people with AK, and compared them with 122 participants who came to eyecare clinics with other conditions, who acted as a control group.
People who wore reusable soft contact lenses (such as monthlies) had 3.8 times the odds of developing AK, compared to people who wore daily disposable lenses. Showering with lenses in increased the odds of AK by 3.3 times, while wearing lenses overnight increased the odds by 3.9 times. Among daily disposable wearers, reusing their lenses increased their infection risk.
Having had a recent contact lens check with a health professional reduced the risk. With further analysis, the researchers estimated that 30-62% of cases in the UK, and potentially in many other countries, could be prevented if people switched from reusable to daily disposable lenses.
Professor John Dart et al,Acanthamoeba keratitis risk factors for daily wear contact lens users: a case control study,Ophthalmology,DOI 10.1016/j.ophtha.2022.08.002
B.Sc Life Sciences, M.Sc Biotechnology, B.Ed
Isra Zaman is a Life Science graduate from Daulat Ram College, Delhi University, and a postgraduate in Biotechnology from Amity University. She has a flair for writing, and her roles at Medicaldialogues include that of a Sr. content writer and a medical correspondent. Her news pieces cover recent discoveries and updates from the health and medicine sector. She can be reached at email@example.com.