Risks of Online Contact Lens

Vision Source and Forsyth Family Eye Care is constantly monitoring the state of the eye care field, and one slightly worrying trend is the rise of cheap online contact lens websites.

Contact lenses have the potential to create significant complications if not maintained appropriately and obtained from your eye health professional. A minority of about 11% of people attempt to obtain their contact lenses on the internet, yet this group represents up to 85% of the contact lens-related eye complications we attend to. This presents an unacceptable risk and is in conflict with our role in maintaining your eyes in good health for safe continued contact lens wear.

Our guaranteed, genuine contact lenses come directly from the manufacturers and are kept in optimum conditions, right here in Winston-Salem – they are not warehoused in Asia or India. As a result we have confidence in the manufacture and condition of the contact lenses we prescribe and supply.

When eye health care and contact lens supply are separated there are usually issues that arise. These are difficult to resolve. Accordingly we are unable to guarantee the performance, condition and safety of contact lenses unless they are dispensed by Forsyth Family Eye Care.

All infections, complications, discomfort and any other problems that arise are beyond our control and therefore we are not liable for the additional costs, nor symptoms or sight loss – permanent or otherwise – that arise as a result.

The article below, from The Sun in the UK, shows that the potential issues with ordering contact lenses from certain online sites. We stand by the quality of our lenses, which you can order here.

The following is drawn from an article in The Sun (February 7th, 2013) in the UK.

Could your cheap lens kill you?

By CHRISTINA EARLE, The Sun, Feb 7 2013.

JACQUELINE STONE’S ordeal might make you think twice about buying cheap contact lenses online.

The 42-year-old mum, from Rayne near Braintree, Essex, nearly died and spent 17 weeks in hospital after being infected by the fungus Fusarium. Though this is disputed by the makers, she claims she picked up the infection from a pair of Singapore-made Focus Dailies All-Day Comfort lenses.

Like millions of other wearers, she bought them online from a UK supplier. So are you more at risk if you buy online? An audit carried out at Southampton General Hospital’s eye unit found that most patients arriving at eye casualty had chosen to buy their lenses over the internet.

Here, CHRISTINA EARLE speaks to users who have been hit by infections.

NIKHITA AJIT KUMAR thought she’d buy her lenses online to save money. The accountant, 23, from Battersea, SW London, soon had problems with her right eye. She says:

“I had just finished my degree at the London School Of Economics and got my first job. With debt after university and before my first pay packet, I looked online for my contact lenses. I thought I’d be able to save money. I was right – I could buy my usual brand, Ciba Vision’s FreshLook lenses, for just over a third of the price.

Having read the reviews from online retailers, I bought them from lensbase.co.uk which looked like a reputable seller. They arrived quickly with no fuss. Like the ones I bought from the optician, they were designed for 30-day wear. I already had cleaning solution at home so I rinsed them thoroughly every evening when I took them out, stored them in solution, then binned them after a month.

For the first five months, I didn’t have any problems. So when I opened my sixth and final pair, I popped them in thinking nothing of it. But within minutes my eyes were stinging and it felt like they were being pricked with pins.

I took both lenses out, rinsed them and put them back in. It seemed to help at first – but within a few hours the pain just intensified.

Before long, the whites of my eyes were red and my vision was blurry. A friend rushed me to London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital. Doctors there said I had an infection most likely caused by wearing lenses that had passed their expiry date.

Apparently, solution in the storage containers that has gone off can cause agitation in the eyes as the pH level becomes more acidic, causing burning sensations, blurriness and infections.

They prescribed me some drops to put in every other hour, including overnight, for three days. This was to kill the infection. They told me my vision should return to normal in a few days. The drops really stung my eyes and I had to dose up on lots of painkillers. The itchiness was unbearable but after 24 hours things began to ease. The redness subsided and my vision became sharper.

When I had finished the antibiotic drops, I booked an appointment with the optician. He examined my eye and assured me there wasn’t any permanent damage.

I’ve had a lucky escape, though. Looking back, I know I should have looked into where they were sold and looked more closely at the packet before wearing them.

I still wear lenses but I only get them from my High Street optician. After that experience, I will certainly never buy them online again.”

JOSE LABORDA, 33, wore contact lenses for seven years. But the graphic designer, from Finsbury Park, north London, is now too afraid to wear them – after nearly losing his sight. He says:

“I first got contact lenses from my optician in Spain seven years ago. Until last summer, I had no problems.

In September 2011 I moved to London and brought a nine-month supply with me. My London optician gave me new ones last June. They were the same, apart from being slightly stronger.

Then, in July 2012, I was watching the Olympics and my right eye started feeling itchy, like it had dust in it. It got sore and that night I hardly slept because of the pain.

I went to A&E next day. The doctors thought it was a corneal ulcer and told me to stop wearing the lenses. They prescribed eye drops and told me to return in a week. But things got much worse. My vision became so blurry I couldn’t see a thing out of my right eye and I was referred to Moorfields Eye Hospital. Doctors there said I had acanthamoeba, a rare type of bacteria usually found in water.

They explained that contact lenses can often cause little tiny scratches on people’s eyeballs and, in my case, a bug had somehow got in. They couldn’t say for sure if I would lose my sight. It was awful.

I was sent home with five different eye drops. The vision and pain in my right eye was so bad I couldn’t work. The doctor at Moorfields checked my vision and said it was a miracle I could see at all. It wasn’t until November that the pain went away and the treatment could stop.

Now, my eyes are fine. I’ve no idea how the bug got into my eye because I’ve always been careful and followed all the contact lens care instructions.

But I’m too afraid to wear lenses again. I’m lucky to have my eyesight now and will stick to glasses.

Commentary by PARWEZ HOSSAIN, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital’s eye unit

People have become much more liberal with lenses and, when coupled with an explosion of cheap online stores in the last five to ten years, the consequences can be grim.

There is a risk with buying lenses online and that is inadequate after-care. Some companies do organise this but many more don’t.

The main issue for patients wearing lenses without supervision is chronic red eye, usually caused by inadequate lens hygiene, intolerance due to solution reactions, protein lens deposits, undiagnosed chronic allergic eye disease and overwear.

All these causes may lead to increased chances of corneal infection/ulceration or corneal vascularisation – and a lack of professional guidance means the chances of the above occurring become more likely.

The most important factor is personal hygiene and correct wear/usage. There is a need to ensure people follow instructions – do not reuse beyond the time indicated.

We see people who wear daily lenses more than once or monthly users who store old lenses to reuse and those who wear their lenses in the shower where bugs can attach.

All of this should be avoided.

Read the full article at The Sun here.