Microbial keratitis, or corneal infection, is a very rare but serious complication of contact lens wear. This website provides information on the infection and its symptoms, how to minimise your risk, and what to do if you suspect you have an infection. The website provides information resulting from the Australian and New Zealand Microbial Keratitis Study, which concluded in 2005. This was a major study looking at the rate and risks of microbial keratitis, which collected information from 30,000 households and all optometrists and ophthalmologists in the two countries. Corneal Infection
Corneal infection is a bacterial infection of the front surface of the eye (the cornea). It is also known as Microbial Keratitis, or MK. Corneal infection associated with contact lenses occurs when the lens is contaminated by micro-organisms (usually bacteria, but can also be fungi or amoebas), and when these micro-organisms then attack the cornea. Corneal infection is the most serious possible complication associated with contact lenses, as it can cause vision loss. However corneal infection is very rare, affecting around 5 in 10,000 contact lens wearers each year. You can significantly reduce your risk of infection by following good lens care and hygiene practices. WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Corneal infection is associated with pain, which usually develops rapidly, and severe redness. Other symptoms can include
Tearing or discharge
Sensitivity to light
Puffiness of the lids
Decreased visual acuity.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
If you have any discomfort remove your lenses. If you continue to experience pain and redness go to an eyecare practitioner as soon as possible. Your eye needs to be examined with a microscope to make an accurate diagnosis. Urgent expert medical attention and treatment is paramount in preventing permanent damage to your vision. SEE AN EYECARE PRACTITIONER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
If you experience any pain and redness you should visit your eyecare practitioner immediately. If an infection is left untreated it can quickly become severe, leading to permanent damage to the infected eye. Infection associated with virulent organisms can cause severe destruction of the cornea within 24 hours. WHAT IS YOUR RISK?
Almost 700,000 people in Australia wear contact lenses, and perhaps 100 million around the world. Contact lens related corneal infections are rare, and affect approximately 5 in 10,000 contact lens wearers annually. However these infections can have serious outcomes such as permanent vision loss and in severe cases, blindness. The study found that loss of vision from corneal infection occurs in almost 1 in 10,000 contact lens wearers annually. HOW CAN YOU REDUCE YOUR RISK?
You can significantly reduce your risk of infection by following good lens care and hygiene practices. Remember that a contact lens is a foreign body placed in your eye, and you need to take care to make sure it stays uncontaminated. HYGIENE
Hygiene is vitally important to preventing infection.
Always wash and rinse your hands thoroughly before handling your lenses. In the study, simple measures such as hand-washing prior to touching contact lenses were found to significantly reduce the likelihood of getting an infection. Alarmingly, the study shows that 25% of patients didn’t always wash their hands, and 12% never washed their hands before handling lenses. Don’t soak or rinse your lenses in tap water or saline, use fresh lens disinfecting solution. Don’t place a lens in your mouth for cleaning or wetting.
Clean your lenses on a regular basis as indicated by your eyecare practitioner. Discard all solutions one month after opening, even if there is still solution remaining. Clean your lens storage case in warm soapy water at least once a week, and leave to air-dry with the lid off every day. Replace your lens case every month (new lens cases are often sold as a package with bottles of solution)....
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