September 2, 2015
Pharmacists Have Opportunity to Educate Contact Lens Wearers, Help Reduce Infections

Atlanta—Nearly all contact lens wearers engage in risky eye care behaviors that can lead to eye infections, according to a new study, and pharmacists have a good opportunity for education when contact lens solution is purchased at drugstores.

A survey published by the CDC found that nearly all, more than 99%, of the 41 million estimated contact lens wearers in the United States engage in at least one behavior known to increase their risk of eye infections. In addition, nearly a third of respondents said they had gone to the doctor for red or painful eyes related to wearing contact lenses.

The majority of contact lens wearers participating in the survey reported that they:

• Keep their contact lens cases for longer than recommended, 82.3%;
• “Top off” solution—adding new solution to the existing solution instead of emptying the case out fully before adding new solution, 55.1%; or
• Wear their lenses while sleeping, 50.2%.

The CDC notes that each of those behaviors has been found in previous research to increase the risk of eye infections by five times or more.

For the online survey, CDC collaborated with the Contact Lens Assessment in Youth (CLAY) group, a multiuniversity group of researchers. A separate survey was used to estimate the number of contact lens wearers—about 41 million adults.

“Good vision contributes to overall well-being and independence for people of all ages, so it’s important not to cut corners on healthy contact lens wear and care,” said CDC Medical Epidemiologist Jennifer Cope, MD, MPH. “We are finding that many wearers are unclear about how to properly wear and care for contact lenses.”

What should pharmacists tell contact lens wearers? Public health officials recommend the following to prevent eye infections:

• Wash hands with soap and water and dry them well before touching contact lenses;
• Take contacts out before sleeping, showering or swimming;
• Rub and rinse contacts in disinfecting solution each time after removing them;
• Rub and rinse the case with contact lens solution, dry with a clean tissue, and store upside down with the caps off after each use;
• Replace contact lens cases at least once every 3 months;
• Avoid “topping off” solution in lens case, i.e., adding fresh solution to old solution; and
• Carry a backup pair of glasses in case contact lenses need to be removed.
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