Contact lens wearers will remember the terrifying ordeal of trying to put contact lenses in for the first time.
With shaking hands you tried to place the invisible disc the right way round in your trembling eye – under the stern gaze of the optician who warned you to always wash your hands before putting contacts in, to store them in saline solution if they’re monthlies and never to sleep, swim or shower in them.
Since those early days, many of us have become a little lax with our contact lens wearing – taking the cheeky nap here and there without removing them for example, but those who shower in contacts be warned; researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital are reporting a rise in Acanthamoeba keratitis, an infection which can lead to blindness.
So how does this infection happen? Well, it starts with acanthamoeba - a cyst-forming microorganism which is present in high levels in the UK’s water supply. When a contact lens isn’t stored properly in saline solution or comes into contact with water through showering, swimming or face washing, the wearer can become infected.
Those most severely affected are left with less than 25% of their vision, and some become blind. Cases have risen from around 10 cases in 2003 to around 65 cases in 2016.
‘This increase in cases highlights the need for contact lens users to be aware of the risks,’ lead author of the research paper Professor John Dart said.
‘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.
‘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.’