Currently, there are more than 30 million contact lens wearers in the United States. While nearly every one will have a safe and uneventful experience of lens wear, the practitioners entrusted with their care must approach them as all being potentially at risk for sight-threatening complications such as ulcerative keratitis. With this in mind, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been hard at work this past year developing strategies to minimize the complications associated with contact lens wear. This initiative is based on the idea that if consumers are adequately educated, their risk for such complications will significantly drop.
As part of this ongoing effort to bring attention to the important care and maintenance issues associated with contact lenses, the CDC and its partners—the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Optometry, the American Optometric Association, the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists (CLAO), the Contact Lens Society of America, the National Academy of Opticianry (NAO) and the Contact Lens Institute (CLI)—have designated the week of November 17-21, 2014 as the first-ever Contact Lens Health Week. This year’s theme is, “You only have one pair of eyes, so take care of them.”
The campaign will stress three points: (1) the importance of healthy contact lens hygiene habits; (2) proper use, care and storage of contact lenses and accoutrement; and (3) the need for regular visits to an eye care provider. The program is primarily targeted at high-risk groups like teens and young adults, but its messages and materials are suitable for all contact lens wearers.
To promote Contact Lens Health Week and encourage patients to practice proper contact lens hygiene throughout the year, the CDC has developed a promotional toolkit for eye care providers, who can take full advantage of the following: (1) CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on estimates of the burden of microbial keratitis in the United States; (2) healthy contact lens wear and care messages, which can be disseminated through social media channels; (3) a collection of posters, web buttons and infographics; and (4) campaign materials, including a list of suggestions for campaign promotion and outreach, a web-based resource list, short messages for social media channels, newsletter summaries and a campaign flyer.
The new program coordinator for this ongoing project—CDC health communication specialist Maya Rao, MPH—has also released a list of highlights from the website. Additional key materials on the CDC site that might be of interest to eye care providers and can be easily shared with patients are below:
• “Protect Your Eyes.” This web page ( www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/protect-your-eyes.html) provides tips that are essential to the overarching principles of safe and effective contact lens wear.
• “Health Promotion Materials.” Here ( www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/materials.html), the CDC hosts a collection of web buttons, posters, podcasts and social media messages to promote healthy lens wear.
• “Water and Contact Lenses.” This page ( www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/water-and-contact-lenses.html) explains the dangers of exposing contact lenses to water through swimming, showering or rinsing, and advises lens wearers on how to avoid potential contamination.
Eye care practitioners who provide contact lens care should take full advantage of these wonderful promotional items. Kudos to CDC and partners for their ongoing, noble efforts to promote safe contact lens wear. I trust each and every colleague will help make this a successful campaign!
For more information on Contact Lens Health Week, visit: www.cdc.gov/contactlenses.
Note: A special thank you to Amanda MacGurn, MPH, who headed the workgroup this past year and has recently been reassigned at CDC for her skills and exceedingly capable leadership.