While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA are currently notifying health care professionals and contact lens wearers about increasing reports of fusarium, a fungas causing severe eye infections, medical experts are trying to educate patients about the importance of contact lens hygiene.
“The issue with contact lens wear is sometimes contact lens can cause very, very small scratches on the corneal surface and therefore allow organisms to get through, another issue is that contact lens often um allow a small amount of bacteria and other organisms to grow on their surface and therefore if they are not cared for appropriately these organisms can enter the cornea much easier because they are right underneath the surface of the lens right next to the corneal surface,” explains ophthalmologist, Dr. Elias Aliprandis.
Very often, the challenge is in diagnosing eye infections. Bacterial eye infections can appear very similar to fungal infections, but they are each treated with different medications. “The two initially present the same way, both present with painful red eye, associated with tearing and blurry vision, and often light sensitivity, both present with some type of a white infiltrate on the normally clear surface of the cornea and it is very difficult to tell in the initial stages of a corneal infection whether it is bacterial or fungal. Now many times doctors treat an infection in the cornea with antibacterial drops assuming that it is a bacteria keratitis, clearly if it is a fungal infection those antibiotics wont work and in the setting of the wrong treatment a fungal keratitis will continue to worsen,” says Dr. Aliprandis.
Dr. Aliprandis says culturing the eye is a sure way to eliminate the guess work. “If a doctor sees a cornea infection they can perform a culture of the material that is causing the infection and that would be diagnostic for either a bacterial or fungal infection,” says Dr. Aliprandis. To avoid infection, never sleep in contact lenses, wash hands with soap and water and dry them with a lint-free towel before handling lenses. Replace your lenses on schedule. Don’t try to wear them longer than indicated to get more use out of them. Follow the specific lens cleaning and storage guidelines from the doctor and the solution manufacturer.
“Another way to prevent contact lens related infections is to consider the use of daily disposable contact lenses, this eliminates the need for using a contact lens solution and because the contact lenses are thrown away in the evening after you are using them, you start out with a fresh sterile pair the next day,” says Dr. Aliprandis. After hearing about the breakout of eye infections, Janie says that she has definitely changed her housekeeping habits when it comes to tending to her lenses.
“It has made me more aware of what is going on, make sure I get the proper solutions, make sure I do take the time out to clean my lens, to wash my hands thoroughly.” If infections go undiagnosed, the collection of inflammatory cells in the cornea can cause blurry vision. These cells will continue to multiply and eventually cause damage to the corneal tissue. And, if your infection is not responding to topical antibiotics within 48-72 hours, Dr. Aliprandis recommends another trip to the eye doctor.
The most popular medications to treat fungal eye infections are natamycin (pronounced na-tuh-my'-sin) and amphoteracin(am-foh-tair'-uh-sin). These medicines are designed to specifically treat different types of fungal organisms. Antibiotics used to treat bacterial eye infections are not effective when the infection is fungal in nature.