Sleeping in contact lenses increases the wearer’s risk of developing a corneal infection, according to a recent case series featured in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC.
“This case series of contact lens-related corneal infections highlights the burden these infections place on contact lens wearers and the serious outcomes associated with them,” Jennifer R. Cope, MD, MPH, medical epidemiologist in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at the CDC, and colleagues wrote in MMWR.
Cope and colleagues said microbial keratitis can lead to more serious adverse outcomes that usually require frequent antibiotic eye drops, multiple follow-up appointments and permanent eye damage. According to the CDC, keratitis caused an estimated 1 million outpatient and emergency room visits in 2010, but the FDA’s MedWatch database includes only 1,075 reports of corneal infections over an 11-year period.
The CDC has collaborated with the Eye and Contact Lens Association for Contact Lens Health Week, which takes place Aug. 20 to 24. To promote healthy contact lens wear and care practices, Cope and colleagues presented six cases — from the last 2 years — of contact lens-related corneal infections. The main risk factor reported in all six cases was sleeping in contact lenses. Sleeping or napping in contact lenses is the most common risky behavior, and about one-third of contact lenses wearers report doing that, according to the report.
The patients highlighted in the cases were between 17 and 59 years old and all required antibiotic eye drop treatment, according to the report. Moreover, some of the patients required hourly administration of the drops for weeks or months. Some of the infections were caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acanthamoeba spp., which could mean the contact lenses and supplies were cleaned incorrectly and contaminated with tap water. Despite sales regulation of contact lenses, three of the six patients purchased and used contact lenses without a valid prescription, and one patient bought medically unnecessary decorative lenses.
One patient was lost to follow-up, which the researchers suggest means the infection was completely cleared up with topical moxifloxacin. However, a majority of the infections resulted in permanent eye damage, such as a stromal scar, or vision loss, and two patients required surgery.
While the researchers recognize that there are FDA-approved contact lenses for overnight wear, they stress the fact that lenses are Class 3 medical devices and still increase the risk for infection. They said that sleeping in contact lenses increases the risk for contact lens–related eye infections by six- to eightfold.
Cope and colleagues urge eye care professionals and patients to report contact lens-related infections to the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Reporting Program (www.fda.gov/MedWatch). The information can be used to improve contact lenses, care products, manufacturer guidelines and labeling.
“Health education measures directed toward contact lens wearers should emphasize raising awareness of the risks of sleeping in contact lenses as well as adherence to all recommendations for the wear and care of contact lenses,” Cope and colleagues concluded. – by Marley Ghizzone
Disclosures: CDC receives an annual contribution from the Contact Lens Institute to support CDC’s Healthy Contact Lens Program. The Contact Lens Institute was not involved in the drafting or review of this report.