A powerful yet humorous online campaign targeting contact lens wearers aims to draw attention to the risks of poor hygiene and enforce better contact lens behaviour.
Developed at the University of New South Wales – School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS) by Dr Nicole Carnt and her research team, the campaign will commence before the Australian summer this year. This will echo the 7th annual CDC Contact Lens Health Week which will take place 17–21 August. SOVS is participating in the CDC campaign, Road to 2020 Vision begins with contact lens health: #ProtectYourEyes, with posts on its social media forums on Facebook and Twitter (@unswoptomvsci)
If we can save the sight of even one individual from contact lens related infection, then it will be a worthwhile accomplishment
Dr Carnt’s research into contact lens hygiene is highly respected. Her study to determine the impact of a ‘No Water’ warning sticker on contact lens cases has led to the production of a sticker that is now available to source from the Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia.
She was recently delighted to welcome optometrists Adam Samuels and Stephanie Yeo to her team, both of whom have been awarded prestigious UNSW Scientia Scholarships to pursue their PhDs solving pieces of the puzzle that is contact lens compliance (or similar).
Mr Samuels and Ms Yeo said although consumers in Australia and New Zealand generally have good standards of hygiene, when it comes to contact lens hygiene there is room for improvement.
“A study done a few years ago showed that in Australia, we have similar contact lens hygiene compliance levels as Germany and Canada. However, most countries could benefit from improved contact lens hygiene,” they said.
They pointed out the many reasons for non-compliance which have been addressed in the campaign.
“A large number of patients are aware that bacteria can transfer from their hands to the eye on contact lens insertion but seem unaware of the risk or severity of infection. Some patients have inadvertently developed bad contact lens habits with their contact lenses after many years of wear and continue their bad habits with no apparent consequences.
“Other patients understand the risks of poor hygiene and assume that they will be immune to any infection that may arise, or that they will deal with it when it arises.
“Recently, fitting and using contact lenses has become simpler and more commercialised so optometrists may be discussing risk and hygiene less frequently with their patients.
“Although daily disposables have helped to mitigate some risks, I had personally encountered a patient who suffered from a severe corneal infection despite being a daily disposable lens wearer recently.”
Drive Consumers to Education
Dr Carnt and her team are encouraging optometrists to get on board with the campaign and help promote contact lens hygiene.
“We’d like optometrists to recognise that poor hygiene is the norm and therefore they should encourage their patients to visit our dedicated contact lens eye health page where they will find humorous videos and links to other articles.
“These free resources will no doubt help spread the word about healthy contact lens wear.”
“The contact lens health week has been very well received by both patients and practitioners in the United States. The CDC has been featured in the mainstream news more than ever since the COVID19 pandemic, so this year, we are expecting its advice and guidelines to resonate strongly. We hope to initiate a similar campaign down under in November. If we can save the sight of even one individual from contact lens related infection, then it will be a worthwhile accomplishment.”