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April 17, 2006

Kellogg Eye Center is seeing increase in contact lens eye infection

ANN ARBOR, MI – Ophthalmologists at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center have seen an increase in the number of contact lens wearers with a rare fungal eye infection. Since August 2005, Kellogg cornea specialists have seen six cases of the infection that usually occurs in tropical regions. “This is a significant increase for a disease rarely seen in our northern climate,” says Alan Sugar, M.D. “We normally see about one case a year.”

Dr. SugarThe fungus that causes the infection in soft contact lens users is, Fusarium, found in plant material and soil in tropical and subtropical regions. The first increase in cases of the infection appeared in Asia.

Sugar advises patients to see an ophthalmologist immediately if they experience symptoms such as redness, pain, tearing, increased light sensitivity, blurry vision, excessive discharge or swelling. The infection is serious and can lead to loss of vision and the need for a corneal transplant. He cautions, however, that these infections are still rare and that most contact lens wearers are at very low risk.

Because a high percentage of the affected patients had used ReNu with
MoistureLoc contact lens solution, Bausch & Lomb has asked retailers to
remove the lens cleaner from their shelves temporarily.

Sugar advises that contact lens wearers should be especially careful to avoid contamination of their lenses. Contact lens wearers should:

  • Wash hands with soap and water, and dry them with a lint-free towel before handling lenses.
  • Wear and replace lenses according to the schedule prescribed by the physician.
  • Follow the specific lens cleaning and storage guidelines from the physician and the solution manufacturer.
  • Keep the contact lens case clean and replace every 3-6 months.
  • Remove the lenses and consult an ophthalmologist immediately upon experiencing symptoms such as redness, pain, tearing, increased light sensitivity, blurry vision, discharge or swelling.

Noting that the source of the infection has not been confirmed, the FDA suggests that  “regardless of which cleaning/disinfecting solution used, wearers may want to consider performing a “rub and rinse” lens cleaning method, rather than a no-rub method, in order to minimize the number of germs and reduce the chances of infection.”

“If we suspect that a patient has this condition, we perform cultures for fungi,” says Sugar.  “Treatments range from eye drop medication to performing a cornea transplant.”

Editors: To arrange an interview with our cornea specialists Dr. Sugar, H. Kaz Soong, M.D., or Shahzad I. Mian, M.D., please contact Betsy Nisbet, 734-647-5586 or bsnisbet@umich.edu

Written by Betsy Nisbet

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