Warning for contact lens wearers as infection increases
The research, which was conducted at Moorfields Eye Hospital in the UK while Carnt was on an NHMRC CJ Martin Biomedical Early Career Fellowship, found a threefold increase in Acanthamoebakeratitis infections in Southeast England since 2011. However, while the study is based on data from the UK, Carnt said its findings were equally important in Australia.
“It is absolutely imperative that regulators and those working in the optical sector take the findings seriously, and use the recommendations to take immediate and urgent action on prevention,” Carnt said.
“Contact lenses are medical devices and should be supplied with warnings regarding safe use.”
Carnt told Insight she has been working with the Cornea and Contact Lens Society Australia (CCLSA) to develop a website dedicated to healthy contact lens wear, along with other initiatives to raise awareness.
“We are trying to encourage optometrists to talk about water related risks, as often they tend to skip over it as in the too hard basket or the risk too low to enforce the message,” she said.
“Yes, contact lenses are a lifestyle option and we don’t want people to be restricted but we do want them to be aware of the risks and take precautions where needed. Our message is to choose healthy contact lens wear.”
While the infection is quite rare, usually affecting 2.5 in 100,000 contact lens users per year, one in four people affected will need a corneal transplant to treat the disease and restore vision.
A member of the Acanthamoeba Keratitis Patient Support Group in the UK led by Carnt, Ms Irenie Ekkeshis, says more needs to be done to prevent new cases.
“This research confirms what those of us affected by Acanthamoeba keratitis have suspected for some time: that incidences of this awful, life-changing infection are on the increase,” Ekkeshis said.
“There’s more that should be done to prevent people from losing their sight to Acanthamoeba keratitis.”
The microorganism responsible for the infection can often be found in bodies of water such as lakes, oceans and rivers, as well as domestic tap water, swimming pools, hot tubs, soil and air. As such, Carnt said contact lens wearers needed to be aware of the risks associated with use around water.
“Acanthamoeba keratitis is a largely preventable disease. People who wear reusable contact lenses need to make sure they thoroughly wash and dry their hands before handling contact lenses, and avoid wearing them while swimming, face washing or bathing,” she said.
“Daily disposable lenses, which eliminate the need for contact lens cases or solutions, may be safer and we are currently analysing our data to establish the risk factors for these.”
The study was published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
Article appeared on Insight