Aston University professors used this year's a World Antibiotic Awareness Week to discuss contact lens hygiene. Presenters hope this information encouraged contact lens wearers in the UK to take better care of their contacts so they won't need to overuse antibiotics.
This event took place at Aston University's main campus on November 15th. Besides optometry professors and students, the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) was also on hand at this meeting.
Before entering the main auditorium, students saw pictures of infected eyes in Aston's main foyer. Members of the BCLA handed out educational pieces of paper and badges to anyone who was interested.
One of the head organizers on this project was Doctor Preeti Bhogal-Bhamra, an optometry lecturer. Dr. Bhogal-Bhamra said the main message of this event was simple: "prevention is better than a cure."
Once inside the main auditorium, attendees watched a few short films showing hygienic and unhygienic contact lens practices. Audience members were then asked to identify the dangerous practices for small prizes.
Third-year optometry majors explained the negative consequences of abusing antibiotics and shared helpful tips for contact lens wearers to practice every day. Everyone present at the event took the "antimicrobial pledge" and said they would try their best to practice immaculate contact lens hygiene in the future.
People who wear monthly contacts are at the greatest risk of catching eye infections. Even if monthly contact lens wearers practice all the hygiene precautions, they still have a higher chance of catching a disease simply because they are re-using their lenses over a longer period of time.
Most optometrists nowadays recommend wearing daily disposable lenses (aka dailies). As the name suggests, people who wear dailies throw their contacts out every night and put on a fresh pair in the morning. Since dailies wearers throw away their lenses every night, there's very little chance for bacterial infections to grow.
No matter what kind of lenses a person wears, contacts should never be worn or placed near any body of water. It's very common for people who wear contacts in swimming pools or in the shower to get a bacterial infection.
Even if the contact lens manufacturers say their lenses are safe to be worn during the nighttime, it's always a good idea to take lenses out before going to sleep. Since contacts restrict oxygen flow to the cornea already, it's very common for people who sleep with their lenses on to develop serious contact lens issues.
Despite the many warnings at optometrists' offices and at public health events, many UK contact lens wearers don't know the basics of contact lens hygiene. Dr. Bhogal-Bhamra said that 1,000 contacts wearers in the UK catch bacterial keratitis every year mainly due to poor hygiene practices.
Bacterial keratitis is an infection of the cornea that causes symptoms such as red eye, eye pain, and blurry vision. Contact lens wearers usually catch this infection by wearing their contacts in while sleeping or swimming. If antibacterial or steroid drops don't work, patients may have to undergo a cornea transplant to recover from this disease. Left untreated, bacterial keratitis can cause blindness.