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Newer Contact Lenses Don't Cut Infections

Daily Disposables, Newer Materials Have Not Reduced Infection; Overnight Wear Increases Risk Most, Studies Show

Contact Lenses & Infection Risk: The Australian Study

In the second study, a team led by Fiona Stapleton, PhD, of the University of New South Wales, interviewed 285 contact lens wearers who had microbial keratitis and 1,798 lens wearers without the infection.

After looking at the type of lenses worn, wearing patterns, and other factors, they estimated the annual incidence for the infection.

They also found that new lens materials haven't reduced infection. Overnight use was the strongest risk factor for infection, just as in the U.K. study.

For instance, they estimate that microbial keratitis occurred in 1.2 per 10,000 of those who wore daily-wear rigid gas-permeable lenses but in 25.4 per 10,000 of those who wore silicone hydrogel lenses overnight.

Other factors that increased the risk of infection included smoking, buying lenses over the Internet, wearing lenses beyond the recommended time spans, and improper hand cleaning before handling lenses.

Contact Lenses & Infection: Study Interpretations

Finding that the newer lens materials don't reduce infection risk is disappointing, Dart writes.

Although experts thought that the lack of oxygen getting to the cornea was a factor in infections, the findings suggest that other factors may be more important, he says.

The lenses may reduce the turnover of skin cells on the front of the eye, for instance, Dart says, boosting infection risk.

The studies were funded from a variety of sources, including CIBA Vision USA, which makes a variety of contact lenses. One of the supporting organizations, The Vision Cooperative Research Center, receives a royalty on the sale of silicone hydrogel lenses.

Contact Lenses & Infection: Second Opinion

The findings about the risk of overnight wear come as no surprise to Thomas Steinemann, MD, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

"That confirms what we have always known for years," he says. "Sleeping in your lenses is not a good thing, even if they are continuous wear. It is a risk factor, probably the risk factor, for microbial keratitis-associated vision loss."

"Don't sleep in your contact lenses, ever," he says. "That includes taking naps in them."

Also important, he says, is to pay attention to lens hygiene. "Follow your eye care professional's and manufacturer's advice about cleaning," he says.

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