Next month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will officially mark its fourth consecutive Contact Lens Health Week.1 Over a decade ago, upticks in rare non-bacterial contact lens-related infections caught the attention of the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), academic partners, and eye care providers. The increases signaled a need for the promotion of safer contact lens wear.2 The CDC focuses on reducing infections that cause pain and vision loss by encouraging proper contact lens hygiene. Their program has received generous financial support from the Contact Lens Institute, a non-profit industry association of contact lens manufacturers.2
It’s important to note that currently there are over 30 million contact lens wearers in the US at risk for sight threatening complications such as ulcerative keratitis. Fortunately, the CDC has been hard at work the past several years developing strategies to minimize the complications associated with contact lens wear. The overarching principle of the program is that if consumers/patients are adequately educated, their risk for such complications is greatly reduced. That’s where we, as clinicians, educators and researchers, play a vital role in reaching the CDC’s goal to minimize the chance of experiencing such complications and to minimize the related overall burden in this country.
As part of an ongoing effort to bring attention to the critical proper care and maintenance issues associated with contact lens week, CDC and partners have designated the week of August 21-25, 2017 as Contact Lens Health Week. For the past four years, in close collaboration with the American Academy of Optometry, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Optometric Association, Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists (CLAO), Contact Lens Society of America, National Academy of Opticianry (NAO), and Contact Lens Institute (CLI), the CDC has sponsored a robust campaign specifically targeting contact lens wearers and the requirements for safe wear. This year’s focus is on encouraging youth to start healthy habits early in their wearing experience. The CDC’s catchphrase is, “Healthy habits mean healthy eyes.”1 The collaboration among the three “Os” highlights again the unity that’s possible through joint efforts to help assure safe and effective lens wear for the public.
The campaign’s ongoing health messages include: (1) stressing the importance of healthy contact lens hygiene habits, (2) proper use, care, and storage of contact lenses and accoutrements, and (3) the importance of regular visits to an eye care provider. The program targets high-risk groups (teens and young adults) and provides messages and materials suitable for all contact lens wearers.1
Since eye care providers are the essential partners in sharing promotional messages and materials for Contact Lens Health Week, the CDC has developed a promotional toolkit for our use. Please take full advantage of the following:
Eye care practitioners and educators who provide contact lens care should take full advantage of these wonderful promotional items. Kudos to the CDC and partners for their on-going efforts to promote safe contact lens wear.
The Academy is pleased to have served as a collaborating partner in this worthy project. Look for a joint general statement to the public next month from us and some of the partners announcing Contact Lens Health Week! I trust that every one of our colleagues will help make this a successful campaign.
Joseph P. Shovlin, OD, FAAO
President, American Academy of Optometry