3 hygiene habits linked to contaminated contact lens cases

3 hygiene habits linked to contaminated contact lens cases

A new study finds that three specific hygiene habits are closely linked to the contamination of contact lens cases.

"Contaminated contact lens cases harbor potentially harmful organisms that can 'hitch a ride' to the eye."

The research, conducted at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, included 119 contact lens wearers—who completed a questionnaire about hygiene habits related to contact lenses and provided their used contact lens storage cases.

Of the contact lens cases provided, 66 percent tested positive for bacterial or fungal contamination. Contamination rates were higher for patients who had worn contact lenses for two or more years, suggesting that patients become more lax about contact lens hygiene over time.

The three hygiene habits that were found to be closely linked to contact lens contamination were:

  • Not washing hands with soap and water before handling contact lenses

  • Not air-drying lens cases

  • Using contact lens cases and disinfecting solutions from different manufacturers.

Thomas Quinn, O.D., chair of the AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section, is unsurprised by these findings. He says past research suggests contact lens care is important to safe contact lens wear.

"Contaminated contact lens cases harbor potentially harmful organisms that can 'hitch a ride' to the eye, using the contact lens as the vehicle. Once in the eye, these organisms can lead to inflammation and/or infection. The most serious infections can lead to corneal scarring and loss of vision," Dr. Quinn says.

How optometrists can encourage better care
In addition to remedying the three hygiene habits mentioned in the study, Dr. Quinn encourages patients to rub the inside of their cases and the inside of the case lids with clean fingers, as studies have found this helps reduce contamination.

"Also, when air-drying the case, patients are instructed to place the case face down. This reduces the likelihood of contamination from the environment, which is particularly important if the case is stored in the bathroom near the commode. This thought also gets patients' attention!" Dr. Quinn says.

When it comes to encouraging compliance, Dr. Quinn employs a three-pronged attack. The doctor shares messages about the importance of proper care, the contact lens staff does the same, and then a printed take-home checklist reinforces them.

He also uses an analogy to make his point. "I describe the act of putting a clean contact lens into a dirty lens case as being much like someone jumping into a mud puddle to bathe. Not only will the clean lens now be dirty, the risk of infection goes up nearly five and a half times," says Dr. Quinn, citing a separate study.

For patients who continue to be noncompliant, he often recommends daily disposable contact lenses—which eliminate the problem of contact lens case contamination altogether. He notes, however, that patients will still need to wash their hands prior to handling any contact lenses.

February 5, 2015

comments powered by Disqus