Eye specialists at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London have reported a dramatic increase in cases of Acanthamoeba keratitis, a parasitic, destructive eye disease, prompting them to commence a contact lens campaign to teach young users across the UK the proper use of contact lenses.

Contact lens
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The number of acanthamoeba cases have have doubled since 2010, said Professor John Dart, of Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Dart says nationally, the number of known cases has risen from around 100 to more than 200 a year; however, that number may be lower than the true situation.

The campaign, Healthy Habits, Healthy Eyes, is designed to get the “protect your eyes” message out.

Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), or amoebic keratitis is a very painful eye infection and if not treated in a timely manner can cause blindness.

The offending organism is called Acanthamoeba which is normally found free-living in the environment; soil, water (including tap and bottled water). However, Acanthamoeba can cause AK, sometime through accidental trauma, but most frequently through the use of soft contact lenses.

Using tap water to clean contact lenses and the contact lens cases and wearing contact lenses while swimming all present a danger to getting AK.

According to Dr Basilio Valladares from the University Institute of Tropical Diseases and Public Health of the Canary Islands, University of La Laguna, “When people rinse their contact lens cases in tap water, they become contaminated with amoebae that feed on bacteria. They are then transferred onto the lenses and can live between the contact lens and the eye. This is particularly worrying because commercialcontact lens solutions do not kill the amoebae.”

To prevent AK and other types of eye infections, (The Moorfields Eye Hospital notes that in addition to AK, poor contact lens care can also lead to corneal infection, also known as microbial keratitis and fungal keratitis), impeccable hygiene must be practiced while handling contact lenses. The following recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for handling contact lenses should be followed:

• Always wash your hands before handling contact lenses to reduce the chance of getting an infection.
• Remove the lenses immediately and consult your eye care professional if your eyes become red, irritated, or your vision changes.
• Always follow the directions of your eye care professional and all labeling instruction for proper use of contact lenses and lens care products.
• Use contact lens products and solutions recommended by your eye care professional.
• Do not use contact lens solutions that have gone beyond the expiration or discard date.
• Sterile saline solutions are only to be used for rinsing. They are not to be used for cleaning and disinfecting your lenses.
• Rub and rinse your contact lenses as directed by your eye care professional.
• Clean and disinfect your lenses properly following all labeling instructions provided with your lens care products
• Do not “top-off” the solutions in your case. Always discard all of the left over contact lens solution after each use. Never reuse any lens solution.
• Do not expose your contact lenses to any water: tap, bottled, distilled, lake or ocean water. Never use non-sterile water (distilled water, tap water or any homemade saline solution).
• Do not put your lenses in your mouth to wet them. Saliva is not a sterile solution.
• Clean, rinse and air-dry your lens case each time lenses are removed. You may want to flip over your lens case while air drying so excess solution may drain out of the case. Contact lens cases can be a source of bacterial growth.
• Replace your contact lens storage case every 3-6 months.
• Do not transfer contact lens solutions into smaller travel size containers. This can affect the sterility of the solution which can lead to an eye infection. Transferring solutions into smaller size containers may also leave consumers open to accidentally using a solution not intended for the eyes.

If you do experience symptoms of irritation or eye infection consult with your eye doctor. It is impossible for the user to determine the seriousness of a problem about using contact lenses and will need to see their doctor.

Remove the lenses and don’t put them back in your eyes. Save them in the lens case, your doctor may need them for testing and diagnosis.

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