Contact lenses are one of those things that have become such an integral part of your daily routine that many of us tend to slip up in terms of practising good hygiene when handling them. How many of us have tried to sleep without taking out contact lenses, or wearing monthly contact lenses way past their expiration date?
Contact lens multipurpose solutions are meant for cleaning, rinsing, disinfecting, and storing your contact lenses. You would think that contact lens solutions would help you to keep your contact lenses cleaner, and thus lower your chances of getting eye infections or the like with your lenses. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case
A Facebook user going under the name Lauren Turtles took to the social media platform on 3 August 2017, in order to raise awareness about how a single day’s use of the Bausch + Lomb ReNu fresh multi-purpose solution has led to her mom becoming diagnosed with keratitis, the inflammation of the eye.
(Click here to see screenshot of the original Facebook post)
In summary, Lauren’s mother, who has been a contact lens user for the past 17 years, recently purchased a triple pack of the Bausch + Lomb ReNu fresh multi-purpose solution from their local chemist warehouse (they appear to reside in Australia).
She opened a new bottle on Sunday, and was then hospitalised on Monday and diagnosed with keratitis, or corneal ulcer. This is a very painful eye inflammatory condition which is understandably terrifying for the patient, and can indeed lead to corneal scarring and loss of vision.
This case is already under investigation by Bausch + Lomb, and at the time of writing, they have not yet issued any recall either in Australia, where Lauren and her mother appear to reside, or anywhere else in the world.
Should you worry?
Reading this story at face-value is certainly shocking and frightening, especially if you happen to be using the same solution as Lauren’s mother. We dissect the case further for you to better understand the circumstances, so you might be better able to make an informed decision on whether to continue using the Bausch + Lomb ReNu fresh multi-purpose solution.
My mother has been wearing contact lenses for 17 years, and using the same contact lens solution for as long as she can remember… possibly since her first set of contacts arrived. 3 weeks ago she purchased a batch of this solution in a 3 pack of 355ml bottles.
It appears that her mother has been a long time user of Bausch + Lomb ReNu fresh multi-purpose solution which has had no ill effects on her so far. The solution did not look like it was previously opened, and it was not expired according to the expiry date label.
She opened the product on Sunday and used it correctly as advised. On Monday she was hospitalised and diagnosed with Keratitis, an eye condition that can lead to permanent loss of vision if not treated quickly.
Here, a few things come into question: how did Lauren’s mother use it? While Lauren has said that her mother used it “correctly as advised”, it would shed more light for the rest of us if we knew the exact way in which Lauren’s mother had used the solution. After all, being a long-time user does not preclude you from making mistakes in the use of a product.
Also, what caused her keratitis? According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the causes of keratitis generally include:
- Bacterial infection
- Viral infection
- Fungal infection
- Parasitic infection
- Improper cleaning and/or care for contact lenses
- Wearing contact lenses too long
- Injury (a scratch on the cornea)
- Vitamin A deficiency (rare)
We can see that the cause of this case of keratitis could really go many ways: it could be because of the Bausch + Lomb formula, it could also be some form of user error (for e.g., improper cleaning or care for contact lenses, which may also lead to infections), or it could even be a combination of both. We cannot determine which is the case due to the lack of details provided in the Facebook post.
[My mother’s] freedom has been completely compromised due to, what I believe to be, the manufacturers lack of quality control, and adherence to Australian consumer safety standards.
Our advice would be to avoid the use of this product, although Bausch + Lomb have not identified a threat to other consumers at this point.
As what we have already outlined above, keratitis could be caused by a whole host of reasons that does not necessarily include the manufacturer, or safety standards. We are not attempting to clear Bausch + Lomb’s name, or to say that they had no part to play in this unfortunate case, but we do think that further investigation (which is thankfully already ongoing) should be done before any conclusion about the cause of this keratitis case can be made.
Furthermore, simply wearing contact lenses at all is already predisposing you to keratitis, whatever contact lens solution you may be using.
The good news is, keratitis is generally treatable if brought to prompt medical attention. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says: “if there is blurring, that could continue to worsen … even though infection is coming under control … blurring can still get worse before it gets better.” We are hoping for the best for Lauren’s mother!
Bausch + Lomb Singapore was not available when Daily Vanity reached out to them for comments. We will update this article when they respond to us.
Didn’t this solution get recalled before?
Yes, Bausch + Lomb did have global recalls for their ReNu contact lens solutions before, but the one you’re probably thinking about happened in 2006 and it was not with this particular product.
In 2006, Bausch + Lomb did a global recall for their MoistureLoc multipurpose solution, which seemed to show a strong correlation with a spike in fungal keratitis cases in contact lens wearers.
According to this study, a majority of the Singaporean contact lens wearers who developed keratitis at that time were using ReNu contact lens solutions (62 out of 66 cases), and “a majority of the patients were found to have suboptimal contact lens hygiene practices.”
It is inconclusive whether the outbreak of fungal keratitis can be solely attributed to the ReNu formula, though the brand did do a global recall as there was a high chance that at least something in the formula was predisposing its users to the infection.
What should you do?
Always practise good contact lens hygiene.
In many of the cases of contact lens solution recalls reviewed by Daily Vanity during the research for this article, inadequate hygiene practices when it comes to caring for your contact lenses always raises the chances of getting eye infections. For example, this study states that “disease load is reduced by 60–70% by avoidance of overnight lens use and attention to lens hygiene factors”.
In addition, some types of contact lenses are more predisposed to risk of infection than others. Daily disposable lenses are the safest type of soft contact lens, since you open a fresh, sterile pair every time you are using them.
Rigid gas permeable lenses (or what most people would call “hard lenses“) are generally safer than any type of soft contact lens. They are not as hydrophilic (water-loving) as soft lenses are because of its material.
Here are some tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology on how to properly care for your contact lenses:
- Always wash your hands with soap and water, then dry them thoroughly with a lint-free towel before handling your contact lenses – these things are going into your eyes after all!
- Minimise contact with water, such as swimming with your lenses
- Do not store or rinse them with tap or even sterile water
- Do not use saline solution or rewetting drops to disinfect them – they’re not effective for that purpose!
- Replace your contact lens according to the schedule prescribed by your eye care professional
- When cleaning, use your fingers to gently rub your contact lenses, then rinse the lenses with solution before soaking them. This “rub and rinse” method is considered by some experts to be more thorough in cleaning, even if you are using a “no-rub” solution
- Rinse contact lens case with fresh solution, not water, then leave empty case open to air-dry
- Keep your contact lens case clean and undamaged, and replace every 3 months
- Do not re-use contact lens solution!
- Do not transfer contact lens solution into smaller travel-size containers, as this may affect its sterility and increase risk of eye infection
- Do not touch the tip of the solution bottle with any surface, and keep the bottle tightly closed when not in use
- You should never re-wear your lenses after you have stored them for 30 or more days without re-disinfecting