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Love Your Lenses Week to focus on handwashing

24 Mar 2018

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The General Optical Council (GOC) is collaborating with a wide range of industry stakeholders and patient groups to promote this year’s Love Your Lenses Week (24-30 March), focussing on the importance of thorough handwashing for safe contact lens care.

Young people (18-24 years) are four times less likely to wash their hands before touching their eyes than people aged over 65 years. Touching or rubbing eyes with unclean hands can spread infections, including the common cold[1].

The findings have been published by the GOC to mark Love Your Lenses Week 2018, which is urging the UK’s 5 million contact lens wearers[2] to ‘always wash hands and dry before touching your eye.’

Research into the habits of over 2,000 contact lens wearers found that more than 1 in 4 (28%) of contact lens wearers aged 18-24 don’t always wash their hands before handling their contact lenses compared with 1 in 20 (6%) of contact lens wearers aged 65+[3].

Contact lenses are safe when looked after properly, but failure to follow advice about how to wear and care for lenses is associated with increased risk of developing eye infections.

Professor Phillip Morgan, Director of Eurolens Research and Head of Optometry at The University of Manchester, said:

“Thoroughly washing and drying hands before applying contact lenses significantly reduces the risk of transferring potentially harmful germs to the eye, making it one of the most important steps for wearers of all types of contact lenses to remember.”

Mr Badrul Hussain, consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Moorfields Eye Hospital, said:

“Whilst serious infections are rare, every year we treat patients with eye infections that could have been avoided if appropriate contact lens care and wear advice was followed.

“Effective hand-washing is an essential part of contact lens care as it limits the spread of harmful bacteria. I would advise contact lens wearers to always wash and dry their hands thoroughly before handling their contact lenses or lens cases."

The GOC has produced the Rule of T.H.U.M.B. mnemonic as part of a package to promote effective hand-washing. It draws on academic research summarised in the Thumbs Up for Healthy Eyes report, which highlights thumbs as an area of the hand that is often not washed adequately.


Rule of T.H.U.M.B

Thumbs  - don’t forget them!

Happy Birthday – sing it twice while you wash your hands

Under the nails – need a good scrub

Massage soap into palms, backs of hands, fingers and thumbs

Both hands dry? Now you can touch your eye


Vicky McDermott, Chief Executive and Registrar at the General Optical Council, which orchestrates the Love Your Lenses campaign on behalf of the optical sector, said:

“Contact lenses are enjoyed safely by millions of people every day. Following advice on how to wear and care for contact lenses allows people to continue to benefit from wearing contact lenses. That is why we are reminding people to always wash hands and dry before touching your eye.”

Further information about the Love Your Lenses campaign and the ‘dos and don’ts’ of wearing contact lenses can be found at




For further information contact:

GOC Communications Team

General Optical Council

t: 020 7580 3898 (option 4)



Notes to editors

1. About the Love Your Lenses campaign:

The campaign website is at

The campaign’s social media handles are @loveyourlensesUK (Facebook) and @yourlenses (Twitter)

A full list of the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of contact lens care can be found at:

The General Optical Council is orchestrating the campaign with the backing of a wide range of industry stakeholders including: Association of British Dispensing Opticians, Association of Contact Lens Manufacturers, Association for Independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians, British Contact Lens Association and a range of contact lens manufacturers and retailers. Further details of the campaigns supporters can be found at

2. About the ‘Thumbs Up for Healthy Eyes’ report

The Thumbs Up for Healthy Eyes report has been produced by the General Optical Council in partnership with Moorfields Eye Hospital. It brings together findings from numerous academic studies into hand-washing and the potential impact of poor hygiene on contact lens wearers. The report is available on request and will be downloadable via

About the General Optical Council:

The GOC is the regulator for the optical professions in the UK. Its purpose is to protect the public by promoting high standards of education, conduct and performance amongst opticians. The Council currently registers around 30,000 optometrists, dispensing opticians, student opticians and optical businesses.


[1] Nicas, M. and Best, D., 2008. A study quantifying the hand-to-face contact rate and its potential application to predicting respiratory tract infection. Journal of occupational and environmental hygiene, 5(6), pp.347-352.

[2] The General Optical Council Public Perceptions Survey – 2016 [3,252 respondents]

[3] Survey of 2,043 respondents who live in the UK and currently wear and buy contact lenses, sourced via the Respondi online panel. Research conducted by BMG research.


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