Thursday, May 21, 2009

Keep an eye on those habits

Keep an eye on those habits
Wed, May 20, 2009
The New Straits Times

FOR many, wearing contact lenses is the preferred choice over spectacles.

However, in spite of it being perceived as a better choice, a lack of proper care can lead to eye infection or worse, a loss of eyesight.

Ophthalmologist Dr Yeoh Phee Liang said that due to improper hygiene or carelessness, eye infections can lead to unnecessary problems.

"Contact lens wearers are more prone to infections because they touch their eyes more often. Also, unless it's properly cleaned, contact lenses are a good place for bacteria to breed." For every 20,000 contact lenses wearers, 20 will suffer from corneal ulcer, an erosion or open sore in the outer layer of the cornea commonly caused by a bacterial, viral, fungal or parasite infection.

When the cornea loses its outer layer, it could lead to corneal abrasion as the bacteria will come into contact with the exposed area and will eat up the cornea, ultimately, affecting one's eyesight.

"It is important for contact lens wearers to observe proper hygiene when handling lenses.

One should not wear them for too long or go for a sauna or a swim in them. Do not use saliva to wet the contact lens or put on hand lotion before you put the lenses onto your eyes.

"Always ensure that you wash your hands with antibacterial soap before you touch the contact lenses," said Dr Yeoh.

He was speaking at the Lifebuoy Media Roundtable to raise awareness on the importance of personal hygiene to prevent eye infections.

Dr Yeoh said a person with an eye infection can also spread the bacteria to others simply by touching things around them. As such, it is important that they wash their hands properly.

Optometrist Tan Chin Ching said that it is equally important to ensure the contact lens casing is always kept sterile and changed every three months. The casing and cleaning solution should not be kept in a wet or damp environment to prevent fungal growth.

"When cleaning your contact lenses, remember to rub the surface to remove any protein build up that can cause lensrelated allergies. Germs are also commonly found in the fingernails. Long fingernails can cause breakages or scratches on the contact lenses which eventually will become a breeding ground for bacteria.

"Long fingernails can also scratch the eye cornea when you put on the lenses." Wearers should consult their optometrist or pharmacists for eye drops that are suitable for dry eyes, says Tan.

Dr Yeoh said the duration in which a person can wear the contact lenses comfortably would reduce once they age.

Therefore, a 16-year-old may be able to wear contact lenses for a longer period in a day compared to an older person.

A 2007 study by Britain's College of Optometrist revealed that almost three quarters of contact lenses wearers are risking blindness because of their hygiene habits. It was found that one in five lick their lenses before putting them on while two out of five use unwashed hands to put them on.

Over 15 per cent of wearers will pick a contact lens off the floor and pop it into their eye and 70 per cent would keep their lenses in for far too long every day.

These bad habits will increase the risk of contracting eye diseases, including conjunctivitis and acanthamoeba keratitis, a rare but very painful and potentially blinding infection of the cornea, the transparent covering at the front of the eye.

The New Straits Times

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