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URGENT Health Advisory to All Contact Lens Wearers: Special Issue

People who wear contact lenses may be at risk of a rare but serious eye infection caused by the Fusarium fungus. Over 100 cases of the infection, called Fusarium Keratitis, are being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - just since April 9, 2006.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with the CDC, have issued an alert to both health care practitioners and patients that the infection may be linked to Bausch & Lomb ReNu cleaning solution, or a generic product made by the same company.

Since April 9, 2006, 109 cases of Fusarium Keratitis are being investigated by the CDC and authorities across 17 states.

Risk of Permanent Vision Loss and Corneal Transplant

Microbial keratitis is a severe infection of the cornea, which tends to have rapidly developing symptoms, including:

  • Tissue necrosis and inflammation

  • Corneal ulceration

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Pain, redness and swollen tissue affecting the eye

  • Permanent vision loss

  • Need for a corneal transplant

According to the FDA, several patients have already experienced permanent vision loss and many have needed corneal transplants.

The 109 cases of Fusarium Keratitis have been spread across the following 17 states:

  • California

  • Connecticut

  • Florida

  • Georgia

  • Iowa

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Missouri

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Pennsylvania

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Vermont

How to Protect Yourself

"This is a serious infection and soft contact lens users should be mindful of the potential to develop this problem. We're advising consumers to practice good basic hygiene and follow manufacturers' instructions for proper use, cleaning and storage of their lenses, and report any signs of infection to their doctors," said Dr. Daniel Schultz, FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health director.

The FDA and CDC have issued the following preventative advice for the estimated 30 million soft contact lens wearers in the United States:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before touching your lenses (lint-free method)

  • Replace your lenses according to the timetable given to you by your doctor

  • Carefully follow the instructions given to you by your doctor and manufacturer regarding cleaning and storage of the lenses

  • Replace your contact lens case every three to six months

  • Make sure you keep your contact lens case clean

  • If you experience redness, pain, tearing, increasing light sensitivity, blurry
    vision, discharge or swelling -- remove the lenses immediately and see your doctor

  • To minimize the number of germs on your lenses, use the "rub and rinse" lens cleaning method (rather than the "no-rub" method)

Further, sleeping with your contact lenses in may increase the risk for microbial keratitis, so removing them before bed is recommended.

26 of 28 Patients Used Bausch & Lomb ReNu Cleaning Solution

Of the 30 patients who have been investigated fully to date, 28 used soft contact lenses and two used no contact lens at all. Among the 28 soft lens users:

  • 26 used Bausch & Lomb ReNu cleaning solution, or a generic brand made by the same company

  • 5 of those 26 used other solutions along with the ReNu brand

  • 9 of the patients kept their contacts in overnight

Despite these findings, no definitive link has been made between the eye infections and ReNu solution.

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"It is important to note that some of the affected patients had used other solutions in addition to the ReNu brand, and that the source of this fungus has not yet been identified. But we're working with CDC and Bausch & Lomb -- and we're investigating other possible causes -- to prevent these infections," Dr. Schultz said.

In the meantime, Bausch & Lomb has voluntarily stopped shipping ReNu Moisture Loc and is looking into the infections. In February 2006, the company voluntarily suspended sales of its ReNu multi-purpose solutions in Singapore and Hong Kong after several eye infections were reported.

Microbial Keratitis Relatively Rare

Wearing contact lenses, particularly overnight, is one of the main risk factors for infectious keratitis -- contact lens wearers have an 80 times greater risk of corneal infection than healthy non-wearers, according to the Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators.

Still, the incidence of infectious keratitis is still relatively low. It's estimated that 20 in 10,000 hydrogel contact lens users who wear their lenses overnight will be affected, compared to 4 in 10,000 who only wear them during the day. Meanwhile, infectious keratitis rates for rigid contact lens users (who use them during the day) are about 1 in 10,000.

Please to Anyone You Know Who Wears Contact Lenses.

Fungal keratitis, specifically, is more common in warm climates, such as in the southernmost parts of the United States. In this region, for instance, 35 percent of microbial keratitis cases are of the fungal variety, compared to just 1 percent in New York. Fungal keratitis linked to Fusarium varies from 25 percent to 62 percent, depending on region.

The FDA has advised people who have remaining stocks of ReNu Moisture Loc to use the product with caution and report any eye symptoms to a health care practitioner immediately.

Recommended Reading

The Rise of Contagious Disease & How to Minimize Your Risk of Contagious Disease Exposure

The Five Key Areas of Illness-Causing Germs & Toxins in Your Home


Medical News Today April 11, 2006 April 11, 2006

Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators

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