October is Contact Lens Safety Month at Prevent Blindness

Prevent Blindness declares October Contact Lens Safety Month to provide guidance to the public to help keep eyes healthy when using contact lenses.

“Whether you wear contact lenses to improve vision or as part of a costume, it’s so important to make sure you do so under the guidance of an eye care professional,” said Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness.

Prevent blindnessthe nation’s oldest voluntary nonprofit eye health organization, declared October Contact Lens Safety Month to help educate the public on the best ways to protect their eyes through proper care.

In addition to a dedicated webpagesocial media shareable fact sheets and charts, Prevent Blindness also offers the “Contact lens safetyepisode as part of the Focus on Eye Health Expert series. Dr. Thomas L. Steinemann, professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University, discusses a variety of topics with Prevent Blindness President and CEO Jeff Todd, including contact lens safety advocacy, care to patients and the dangers of misusing contact lenses. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recently presented Dr. Steinemann with the Outstanding Advocate Award, in recognition of his leadership and advocacy efforts spanning two decades to promote patient safety and contact lens use.

Anyone interested in buying contact lenses must first undergo an eye examination by a licensed eye care professional. All contact lenses are classified by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as prescription medical devices. This applies to contact lenses with and without a prescription (cosmetic or decorative).

The FDA also states that contact lenses are not over-the-counter devices. Companies that sell them as such are misbranded on the device and are violating Federal Trade Commission regulations by selling contact lenses without a prescription. Contact lenses sold without a prescription by unlicensed sellers may be contaminated and/or counterfeit and therefore not safe to use.

Different types of contact lenses include:

  • Soft contact lenses come in two basic forms: daily wear and extended wear. Both lenses are made from a thin, flexible material and water. Daily wear lenses should be removed, cleaned and stored daily. Extended wear lenses are designed for night wear. However, there is an increased risk of infection associated with extended wear lenses. They must be worn for the duration prescribed by an ophthalmologist.
  • Rigid contact lenses provide clearer vision with certain eye conditions, and some types may last longer. Many types of rigid contact lenses are available as bifocals. Adjusting to wearing hard contact lenses may take longer than soft contact lenses.
  • Soft daily wear lenses are generally the most comfortable and the eyes will adjust to wearing them in less time than hard contact lenses. Soft lenses can be worn during vigorous physical activity and sports with less risk of the lenses slipping out of place. Soft contact lenses require special cleaning and disinfection and can tear easily, so they may not last as long as hard contact lenses.
  • Soft extended wear lenses offer the same benefits as daily wear lenses. These lenses can be worn for an extended period of time, up to a week. However, due to the risk of infection associated with prolonged use, daily removal and cleaning is recommended.

A recent study published in Ophthalmology, “Acanthamoeba Keratitis Risk Factors for Daily Wear Contact Lens Usersfound that those who use reusable contact lenses rather than daily disposable lenses are four times more likely to develop Acanthamoeba keratitis, a serious and painful infection of the cornea, the transparent outer covering of the eye, which usually causes scarring. If not diagnosed and treated, it can lead to blindness. In the most severe cases, a corneal transplant may be necessary. The infection is thought to be caused by exposure of the eye to water contaminated with acanthamoeba, a free-living microscopic organism.

Prevent Blindness offers the following recommendations for keeping eyes healthy while wearing contact lenses:

  • Before handling contact lenses, wash your hands with soap and water, then rinse them and dry them with a lint-free towel.
  • Minimize contact with water, including removing lenses before swimming or in a hot tub.
  • Wear and replace contact lenses according to the schedule prescribed by your eye care professional.
  • While cleaning, using a cool solution, rub your contact lenses with your fingers, then rinse the lenses with solution before soaking them – even if the solution you’re using is a “no-rub” variety.
  • Contact lens cases should always be cleaned with cool solution, not water. Then leave the empty case open to air dry.
  • Do not reuse the old solution or “fill” the solution back into your lens case.
  • Do not use cracked or damaged lens cases. Lens cases can be a source of contamination and infection.

“Whether you wear contact lenses to improve vision or as part of a costume, it’s so important to make sure you do so under the guidance of an eye care professional,” said Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “Following safety routines daily can help prevent painful and potentially life-threatening eye infections.”

For more information and advice on contact lens safety, please visit https://preventblindness.org/wearing-contact-lenses/.

About Preventing Blindness

Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation’s leading voluntary eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening and training, programs community and patient services and research. These services are made possible by the generous support of the American public. Together with a network of affiliates, Prevent Blindness is committed to eliminating preventable blindness in America. For more information, visit us at preventblindness.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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