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Optical bodies warn, "Don't cut corners on contact lens care during recession"

18 May 2009

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The British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) and the General Optical Council (GOC) are today urging Britain’s 3.5 million contact lens wearers not to endanger their eye health and comfort during the recession through risky contact lens practices.

The warning follows a YouGov poll that reveals nearly one in four contact lens wearers would consider switching their contact lens brand to save money, and more than one in ten wearers would consider having less frequent check-ups. One in five would consider wearing the lenses for longer than recommended, such as using monthly lenses for more than a month, to cut costs.

Although, by law, contact lenses can only be supplied following a fitting by a registered eyecare or medical practitioner, recent reports suggest that some contact lens wearers are switching to cheaper lenses without having the new lenses fitted. When lenses are not properly fitted wearers may experience a range of side-effects, from minor discomfort and blurred vision to more serious adverse reactions such as red, inflamed eyes.

Professor Roger Buckley, clinical adviser to the GOC, commented: “In the current economic climate, it’s understandable that contact lens wearers are looking to save money. But without a proper fitting, patients could be putting their eye health and comfort at risk. It’s essential that patients follow the advice of their eyecare practitioner when it comes to contact lens care.”

A contact lens fitting should include an eye examination to make sure your eyes are healthy, and measurements of your eyes to ensure the best lens type, fit and vision. Your practitioner should also advise you when you should wear the lenses, how to look after them and how often they should be replaced. Contact lens wearers should not change their prescribed lens type, wearing schedule, replacement frequency, solutions or care procedures without the recommendation of their eyecare practitioner.

Other examples of high-risk contact lens practices include:
• Wearing a damaged or torn lens instead of replacing it.
• Cutting down on lens cleaning to save on solutions costs.
• Switching to solutions that may not be compatible with the eye or lens
• Sleeping in lenses not suitable for overnight wear to avoid buying solutions.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. The BCLA and the GOC jointly commissioned a YouGov poll with a total sample size of 2,131 adults, of whom 240 were contact lens wearers. Fieldwork was undertaken from May 13-15, 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

2. According to figures released last month by the Association of Contact Lens Manufacturers there were 3,513,000 contact lens wearers in the UK in 2008, representing 7.2% of the adult population and an increase of 4% on the number of wearers in 2007.

3. Personal finance website Money Week (April 21) recently advised consumers to switch to ‘cut-price’ contact lenses to save on costs but did not state that a fitting and specification was needed.

4. The legal requirements for sales of contact lenses are set out in the Opticians Act 1989, section 27. The Opticians Act and the General Optical Council’s statement on sale and supply of optical appliances are available from the GOC website.

5. The BCLA and GOC have produced a leaflet on ‘Buying Contact Lenses’ to encourage safe practice among consumers buying contact lenses. The leaflet and further advice are available on the GOC website or the BCLA website, www.bcla.org.uk.

6. A US study found that consumers who bought contact lenses from sources other than an eyecare practitioner were less likely to comply with good eyecare health practices (Fogel et al, Optometry 2008;79:1 23-35).

7. Professor Roger Buckley is available for interview. Professor Buckley is considered to be one of this country's leading medical experts on contact lenses. He is one of the GOC’s clinical advisers and a past president of the BCLA. He currently holds the Chair in Ocular Medicine at Anglia Ruskin University and is an Honorary Visiting Specialist at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. Previous roles include consultant ophthalmologist and Director of the Contact Lens and Prosthesis Department at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

For further information please contact:
Alison Ewbank
Communications Consultant
British Contact Lens Association
t: 020 7580 6661 m: 07732 121 959 e: alison.ewbank@btinternet.com  
 

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