Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Contact solution recalls plead for greater awareness

For those of you that have known me for a while, you know that my mother-in-law, Paige Reichardt, lost an eye to an aggressive, painful, but relatively rare eye infection last year called Acanthamoeba keratitis. It’s essentially an amoeba, relatively common in water and soil, that enters the eye through a corneal abrasion and attacks the eye. It’s incredibly painful and many that suffer from it go through multiple corneal transplants. Since the time my mother-in-law contracted the infection, she has been on a crusade to inform people about the dangers of water-borne eye infections such as acathamoeba. She was even flown out to Washington with Prevent Blindness America to meet with lawmakers to urge them for more prominent warning labels for contact lenses and solution and additional research into eye infections such as acanthamoeba.

The last time we got a chance to visit home, she got news of, and had the surgery to remove her infected eye. Despite the loss, it was a HUGE relief for her, as the months of excruciating pain were too much to handle. The infection had also spread to the back of the eye, and had the potential to travel up the optic nerve into her brain and kill her. On my trip to visit family at the end of May this year, we got some more great news. The contact solution she and many of the people she has been in contact with that have the disease was recalled. This was another thing she was working on with the CDC, and weekly meetings about it with the Illinois CDC had been happening for months. If you use AMO Complete contact solution PLEASE throw it out, and choose another brand (not Bausch and Lomb Renu).

After all the talks, the determined there was a link between this solution and the incidents of acathamoeba. However, the statistics of the disease that are being quoted in news articles are from 1986, saying 1 or 2 in one million people contract it. Contact lens usage hadn’t really taken off at that point. Some stats that my mother-in-law have include 65 cases in Chicago alone in the last 2-3 years, and even one doctor in Atlanta that has treated 24 cases himself in recent years. That’s not even 2 cities! Obviously the problem is much more widespread than what these old statistics would suggest.

Do you know how to properly care for your lenses, or know what should and shouldn’t be done?

Part of my mother-in-law’s quest has revealed that very little education is happening about proper use and care for contact lenses. With doctors out of the equation thanks to folks like 1-800-Contacts, very few people understand how to use their contacts. Some things not to do include:

Wearing your contacts

  1. Do not wear your contacts in the pool or shower.
  2. Do not wear your contacts overnight. While some lenses are now being marketed as “safe for overnight wear’ there are still serious threats for a corneal abrasion, that can allow infections into the eye.
  3. If you eyes are irritated or uncomfortable, DO NOT WEAR your contacts.

Care for your lenses

  1. DO NOT use water to store your lenses.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water before handling your lenses
  3. DO NOT use the same contact solution over and over. Use fresh solution to store your lenses in.
  4. Rise your lens case with solution and allow to air dry between uses.
  5. Replace your lens case every 3 months.
  6. “No Rub” solutions are ok, but still do not clean your lenses even close to as well as a simple rub for a few seconds with solution will do. This act alone will kill over 85% of the possible things that could lead to an infection.

Lens Solution

AMO Complete and Bausch and Lomb Renu have both been recalled (although Renu has been relaunched). These solutions appear to be great as many people find them comfortable to use. However, they are comfortable to use because they are very weak. They are not strong enough to kill many things that can cause an infection. Both have been linked to acathamoeba and to other eye infections. Doctors are now taking a serious look at solutions, and will often ask you specifically what solution you use upon a visit to the office. As a side note: a few days before the CDC advisory, AMO made public it’s intention to purchase Bausch and Lomb. Isn’t that just ironic?

So, if you use contacts, as I do, please do what you can to care for your eyes. You only have two of them. While some eye infections are rare, they DO happen. If it happens to you, it doesn’t matter if it’s a rare disease or not.

Links:

Recall of AMO Complete
Paige Reichardt's interview with ABC News
Paige's trip to Washington
Prevent Blindness America
Support forum for those with acanthamoeba keratitis

1 comment:

Karen (aka MrsB) said...

Great post Ed! And... yes, I was one who used Renu for years and also AMO. I don't have any now but even with my no-rub solution, still rub them clean. Another point in caring for your lenses is to actually replace them in the suggested time frame and not try to "cheap out" by stretching out their use. Different contacts are marketed as 2 week, 1 month etc... and should be worn as such. Some people actually wear them for double the amount of time to save money. It's just not worth it!