How safe are contact lenses?

June 16, 2008

Ophthalmology organizations voice concerns to FDA on contact lens safety.

Several professional bodies in the US recently outlined key recommendations, which were presented to the FDA, calling for an improvement in contact lens safety; including improved contact lens product testing and universal lens care guidelines for consumers.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, the Cornea Society, and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery were represented at the meeting.

The number of cases of microbial keratitis, particularly Acanthamoeba keratitis, among contact lens wearers remains steady, despite attempts to improve contact lens disinfection regimens and voluntary recalls of contact lens solutions, according to experts.

"Now is the time to tighten the safety net around contact lens products," said Elmer Tu, MD, AAO spokesperson and director of the cornea and external disease service at the University of Illinois, Chicago. "While improved testing and consumer awareness of lens care guidelines may not prevent future outbreaks of eye infections, they will provide an important additional layer of safety for contact lens wearers."

A concern that some ophthalmologists still have is the practice of "passive verification" of contact lens prescriptions. Through this system, third-party sellers (such as online vendors) of contact lenses notify eye-care professionals (ECPs) of customer requests to purchase contact lenses. Unless the ECP notifies the seller within 8 business hours that the prescription is incorrect, expired, or otherwise problematic, the seller may presume that the prescription is correct and then complete the sale.