A study has emphasised the need to advise contact lens (CL) wearers to minimise mixing CLs with water and improve personal hygiene to reduce the risk of Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK).
The study was led by University of New South Wales’ Scientia Fellow Dr. Nicole Carnt while on an NHMRC CJ Martin Biomedical Early Career Fellowship at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London. She found a threefold increase in the rare, preventable infection since 2011 in South-East England.
AK causes the cornea to become painful and inflamed. Although quite rare – usually affecting 2.5 in 100,000 CL users per year – the infection can severely effect patients. The most severely affected (a quarter of the total) have less than 25 per cent of vision or become blind following the disease and face prolonged treatment. Overall, 25 per cent of people affected require corneal transplants.
While more prevalent in the UK because of the country’s water supply methods, Dr. Carnt said clinicians in Australia should take the risk of this disease seriously.
“Anyone can be infected, but CL users face the highest risk… People who wear reusable CLs need to make sure they thoroughly wash and dry their hands before handling CLs, and avoid wearing them while swimming, face washing or bathing. Daily disposable lenses, which eliminate the need for CL cases or solutions, may be safer and we are currently analysing our data to establish the risk factors for these.
“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.”
The study was published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology (September, 2018).