Most people find contact lens wear is completely safe and trouble-free. However, wearing and caring for contact lenses properly is critical to keeping the eyes healthy and preventing eye infections. Contact lenses are medical devices, and failure to wear, clean, and store them as directed can increase the risk of eye infections.
The "No Water Campaign"
A campaign was launched in 2011 to raise awareness of the risks associated with using non-sterile water to clean contact lenses. Established by Irenie Ekkeshis, who lost the sight in her right eye after contracting a rare corneal infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis, the No water initiative won Campaign of the Year at the inaugural awards ceremony in London (June 2016).
In the video below, Irenie Ekkeshis talks about her successful "no water warning" campaign to help raise awareness of a disease that can affect people who wear contact lenses.
Water On Your Contact Lenses Can Be Dangerous
Although rare, a sight-threatening eye complication, Acanthamoeba keratitis, is caused by an organism present in all forms of impure water, such as swimming pools, tap water and showers. That's why it's vitally important for contact lens wearers to remove their lenses before swimming and use appropriate solution to clean and disinfect lenses if they're accidentally splashed. The many microorganisms that live in the water can easily stay on your lenses and cause you problems later.
Exposing contact lenses to water may increase the risk of different types of eye infections. One serious type of contact lens-related eye infection, Acanthamoeba keratitis, is caused by a microscopic ameba commonly found in water. Infection makes the clear outer surface of the eye become painful and inflamed and requires immediate attention. Even though infection from Acanthamoeba is rare, it can be difficult to treat and extremely painful and in the worst cases cause blindness. To prevent AK and other types of eye infections, good hygiene must be practiced while handling contact lenses.
Diseases that can result from poor contact lens care.
Corneal infection (known as microbial keratitis) in contact lens wearers is mainly caused by bacteria, which stick to contact lenses where these microorganisms become more resistant and harmful.
Acanthamoeba keratitis is a more rare form of microbial keratitis and is a more severe form of infection and occurs in contact lens wearers who are otherwise fit and healthy.
Fungal keratitis can also occur with contact lens wear but occurs most often in people who sustain eye injuries from agricultural or gardening accidents, ocular surface disease and those with immunosuppression. This infection, like Acanthamoeba keratitis, is one of the severest forms of corneal infection that can occur in contact lens wear.
Understanding the risks
Wearing and caring for contact lenses properly is critical to keeping the eyes healthy and preventing eye infections. Studies show that awareness of the risks of water exposure to contact lenses is universally low with limited safety information or education available on these risks.
It is essential to clean and disinfect your contact lenses after you have removed them from your eyes and before you put them back in their storage case. This helps prevent proteins and bacteria from building up on the lens. Cleaning and disinfection simply involves soaking your lenses with contact lens cleaning solution in their storage case for a specific amount of time. Your eye care professional may also recommend a particular cleaning regime. Never top up or reuse contact lens cleaning solution that is inside the contact lens case, it should be replaced with fresh cleaning solution every time the contact lenses are stored.
Rinse your storage case in contact lens cleaning solution then leave it to dry out completely every day by leaving it open and upside down on a clean surface. Remember to replace the entire case every 3 months even if it still looks good. Dirty contact lens storage cases are a major source of eye infections. Always follow the recommendation of your eye care professional.
When cared for properly, contact lenses can be comfortable and convenient for those who wear them. They are, however, not entirely risk-free – especially if they are not cared for properly. To gain the benefits of wearing contact lenses, it is essential to practice healthy habits. Below are some tips for proper lens and eye care.
Follow these tips for proper lens and eye care:
Wash your hands with soap and water. Dry them well with a clean cloth before touching your contact lenses every time.
Never let tap water come in contact with your contact lenses: tap, bottled, distilled, lake or ocean water
Never store your contact lenses in water.
Never wear your contact lenses while swimming or showering.
Avoid showering in contact lenses, and remove them before using a hot tub or swimming.
Never use saliva to wet your contact lenses.
and rinse your contact lenses with contact lens disinfecting solution
–never water or saliva – to clean them each time you remove them.
Never use non-sterile water (distilled water, tap water or any homemade saline solution).
Replace your contact lenses as often as recommended by your eye doctor.
and rinse your contact lens case with contact lens solution – never
water – and then empty and dry with a clean tissue. Store upside down
with the caps off after each use.
Replace your contact lens case at least every three to six months.
“top off” solution. Use only fresh contact lens disinfecting solution
in your case – never mix fresh solution with old or used solution.
Do not transfer contact lens solutions into smaller travel size containers.
Use only the contact lens solution recommended by your eye doctor.
Always follow the directions of your eye care professional.
you do experience symptoms of irritation or eye infection, never go to
sleep with a painful red eye – consult with your eye doctor immediately.
Joslin CE, Tu EY, Shoff ME, Booton GC, Fuerst PA, McMahon TT,
Anderson RJ, Dworkin MS, Sugar J, Davis FG, Stayner LT. The association
of contact lens solution use and Acanthamoeba keratitis. Am J
Ophthalmol. 2007; 144(2):169-80.
Hammersmith KM. Diagnosis and management of Acanthamoeba keratitis. Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2006;17(4):327-31.
V, McMahon TT, Joslin CE, Jones L. Microbial keratitis and the role of
rub and rinsing. Eye Contact Lens. 2007;33(6 Pt 2):421-3; discussion
Beattie TK, Tomlinson A, McFadyen AK, Seal DV, Grimason
AM. Enhanced attachment of Acanthamoeba to extended-wear silicone
hydrogel contact lenses: a new risk factor for infection? Ophthalmology.
Visvesvara GS, Jones DB, Robinson NM.
Isolation, identification, and biological characterization of
Acanthamoeba polyphaga from a human eye. Am J Trop Med Hyg.
Page MA, Mathers WD. Acanthamoeba keratitis: a
12-year experience covering a wide spectrum of presentations, diagnoses,
and outcomes. J Ophthalmol. 2013;2013:670242.
Verani JR, Lorick
SA, Yoder JS, Beach MJ, Braden CR, Roberts JM, Conover CS, Chen S,
McConnell KA, Chang DC, Park BJ, Jones DB, Visvesvara GS, Roy SL.
National outbreak of Acanthamoeba keratitis associated with use of a
contact lens solution, United States. Emerg Infect Dis. 2009;
Ross J, Roy SL, Mathers WD, Ritterband DC, Yoder
JS, Ayers T, Shah RD, Samper ME, Shih CY, Schmitz A, Brown AC. Clinical
characteristics of Acanthamoeba keratitis infections in 28 states, 2008
to 2011. Cornea. 2014; 33(2):161-8.