Contact Lenses have proven themselves as a great vision correcting medical device now for over 50 years. Unfortunately in an uncontrolled environment they have also proven to be very, very dangerous.
The key to successful contact lens wear is to reduce the risk factors. The best analogy we can give is driving a car. What are the risk factors that contribute to serious injury and death?
- Young age - they tend to take unnecessary risks ie drive too fast.
- Driving without a seat belt
- Worn out tires
- Brakes not serviced
- These are just a few...
Education and regulation has significantly reduced the road toll over the last 20 years even though there are more drivers on the roads.
If we take this example to the contact lens world, what are the risk factors to serious contact lens complications?
- Buying contact lenses on the internet! Believe it or not this is true for two reasons. The first is that often overseas contact lens suppliers will sell without a valid and up to date prescription and the second is occasionally substitution occurs and the patient ends up with the wrong lenses for their eyes.
- Missing important appointments for health checks. Remember contact lenses are placed on the most important organ of your body - your eye!
- Not cleaning lenses properly
- Rinsing lenses with tap water
- Storing lenses in saline instead of properly prescribed contact lens disinfection solution
- Not replacing lenses at prescribed intervals
- Sleeping in contact lenses
Recently a disturbing article was published in the UK. A mother lost her eye totally due to inappropriate wearing of contact lenses that were purchased off the internet. DO NOT go to this link if you are likely to be upset seeing graphic eye health images:
So what is the moral to the story? Contact lenses are medical devices. We are not purchasing packets of chips. If you are using contact lenses it is important to have thorough eye tests every 6 months and to purchase your product from your optometrist, who will supply what has been prescribed and will not substitute without your knowledge.
The internet has been a fantastic innovation to supply of commodity products - contact lenses ARE NOT commodity products. Hopefully legislation will be put into place to protect the unsuspecting general public. If this does not occur then it is up to the clinicians to continually educate.