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Contact Lens Wearers Warned Of Rare Infection That Can Cause Blindness

(CBS Local) -- People who wear contact lenses are urged to properly clean their reusable contacts following outbreak of a rare infection which can cause blindness.

A new study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found a rise in the number of cases of Acanthamoeba keratitis, caused by a single-cell organism called Acanthamoeba, among contact lens wears in England since 2011, often due to poor hygiene.

The preventable infection causes the front surface of the eye, the cornea, to become painful and inflamed.

Researchers found that contact lens wearers who often failed to clean their lenses or weren't great hand-washers or swam or used hot tubs while wearing lenses or who used a particular disinfectant known as Oxipol to clean their lenses -- were more than three times higher at risk.

"This infection is still quite rare, usually affecting 2.5 in 100,000 contact lens users per year in South East England, but it's largely preventable. This increase in cases highlights the need for contact lens users to be aware of the risks," the study's lead author, Professor John Dart said in a statement. "This increase in cases highlights the need for contact lens users to be aware of the risks."

The Centers for Disease Control headquartered in Atlanta has issued a set of guidelines to decrease your risk of developing Acanthamoeba keratitis:

  • Visit your eye care provider for regular eye examinations.
  • Wear and replace contact lenses according to the schedule prescribed by your eye care provider.
  • Remove contact lenses before any activity involving contact with water, including showering, using a hot tub, or swimming.
  • Wash hands with soap and water and dry before handling contact lenses.
  • Clean contact lenses according to instructions from your eye care provider and the manufacturer's guidelines:
    1. Never reuse or top off old solution. Use fresh cleaning or disinfecting solution each time lenses are cleaned and stored.
    2. Never use saline solution or rewetting drops to disinfect lenses. Neither solution is an effective or approved disinfectant.
    3. Be sure to clean, rub, and rinse your lenses each time you remove your lenses. Rubbing and rinsing your contact lenses will aid in removing harmful microbes and residues.
  • Store reusable lenses in the proper storage case:
    1. Storage cases should be rubbed and rinsed with sterile contact lens solution (never use tap water), emptied, and left open to dry after each use.
    2. Replace storage cases at least once every three months.
    3. Contact lens users with questions regarding which solutions are best for them should consult their eye care providers. They should also consult their eye care providers if they have any of the following symptoms: eye pain or redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, sensation of something in the eye, or excessive tearing.
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