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Contact Lens behaviors can have serious consequences

It is well known that eye infections related to contact lenses can have serious consequences such as blindness, which may be debilitating. These infections are associated with several risk factors including sleeping in lenses, water exposure, non-compliance with adhering to replacement schedules, and reusing disinfecting solution [1]. Previous studies have reported adolescent and young adult contact lens wearers to be more likely than older adult contact lens wearers to have poor contact lens hygiene and develop eye infections [2.3]

The CDC in 2015 reported the adult population at risk for contact lens-related eye infections in the US, however, this estimate did not include adolescents [4]. A recent population-based survey was used to better understand younger contact lens wearers to guide prevention efforts. This survey asked about contact lens wear, care behaviors, risk factors, and demographics in 12-17-year-olds (referred to as adolescents), young adults from 18-24 years old, and older adults greater than ≥25 years old in the United States.

Risky behavior can have serious consequences

It is well known that eye infections related to contact lenses can have serious consequences such as blindness, which may be debilitating. These infections are associated with several risk factors including sleeping in lenses, water exposure, non-compliance with adhering to replacement schedules, and reusing disinfecting solution [1]. Previous studies have reported adolescent and young adult contact lens wearers to be more likely than older adult contact lens wearers to have poor contact lens hygiene and develop eye infections [2.3]

Behaviors broken down by age groups

The CDC in 2015 reported the adult population at risk for contact lens-related eye infections in the US, however, this estimate did not include adolescents [4]. A recent population-based survey was used to better understand younger contact lens wearers to guide prevention efforts. This survey asked about contact lens wear, care behaviors, risk factors, and demographics in 12-17-year-olds (referred to as adolescents), young adults from 18-24 years old, and older adults greater than ≥25 years old in the United States.

Approximately 3.6 million adolescents (14.5%) wore contact lenses in the United States in 2016 [5]. In this group, 85% reported at least one behavior that put them at risk for a contact lens-related eye infection [5]. In adolescents, the most frequently reported risk behaviors were not visiting an eye doctor at least annually, sleeping or napping in contact lenses, and swimming in contact lenses.

Risky contact lens behavior was also present in the young adult group (81%) and older adult groups (88%). Non-compliance with contact lens replacement, non-compliance with contact lens storage cases, swimming in contact lenses and sleeping or napping in contact lenses were the most common behaviors among young adults and older adults. Of interest, adolescents were significantly more compliant to with contact lens replacement and replacing lens storage cases at intervals longer than recommended.

Conclusion

Findings from this study can be used to create age-specific targeted prevention messages aimed at contact lens wearers. It is also beneficial to establish a baseline for evaluating trends in contact lens wear, care and risky behaviors related to contact lenses.

Do these statistics resonate with your patients and practice? Your input is most appreciated.


References:
Stapleton F, Keay L, Jalbert I, Cole N. The epidemiology of contact lens-related infiltrates. Optom Vis Sci 2007;84:257–72.

Wagner H, Richdale K, Mitchell GL, et al. ; CLAY Study Group. Age, behavior, environment, and health factors in the soft contact lens risk survey. Optom Vis Sci 2014;91:252–61.

Chalmers RL, Wagner H, Mitchell GL, et al. Age and other risk factors for corneal infiltrative and inflammatory events in young soft contact lens wearers from the Contact Lens Assessment in Youth (CLAY) study. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2011;52:6690–6.

Cope JR, Collier SA, Rao MM, et al. Contact lens wearer demographics and risk behaviors for contact lens-related eye infections—United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2015;64:865–70.

Cope JR, Collier, SA, Nethercut H, et al. Risk Behaviors for Contact Lens-Related Eye Infections Among Adults and Adolescents – United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017 Aug 18;66(32):841-845. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6632a2.

Melissa Barnett OD, FAAO, FSLS
Dr. Melissa Barnett is a Principal Optometrist at the UC Davis Eye Center in Sacramento. She is an internationally recognized key opinion leader, specializing in anterior segment disease and specialty contact lenses. Dr. Barnett lectures and publishes extensively on topics including dry eye, anterior segment disease, contact lenses and creating a healthy balance between work and home life for women in optometry. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, a Diplomate of the American Board of Certification in Medical Optometry (ABCMO) and serves on the Board of American Optometric Association (AOA) Cornea and Contact Lens Council, Women of Vision (WOV), Gas Permeable Lens Institute (GPLI), Ocular Surface Society of Optometry (OSSO) is Immediate Past President of The Scleral Lens Education Society (SLS). Dr. Barnett is a spokesperson for the California Optometric Association and a guest lecturer for the STAPLE program. She was awarded The Theia Award for Excellence for Mentoring by Women in Optometry (WO) in 2016.

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