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Holidaymakers warned on eye health

12 August 2013 09:30

People going on holiday have been advised on how to take care of their contact lenses to avoid infections

People going on holiday have been advised on how to take care of their contact lenses to avoid infections

Holidaymakers who wear contact lenses are being advised to take extra care with their eye health to avoid infection.

Parwez Hossain, a consultant ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital, said the eye unit often sees a rise in the number of patients between August and September due to Brits being more relaxed about lens hygiene during the summer months.

He said progress was being made when it came to people understanding the importance of contact lens care, but added that the unit "almost always" sees a rise in infections when people come home from their holidays.

He said this was particularly the case when holidaymakers returned from breaks in "very hot countries".

Microbial keratitis - inflammation of the cornea - is a particularly common infection in contact lens wearers. Of the three million people in the UK who use contact lenses, around 1,200 cases of the infection are reported each year.

Southampton General says it sees a 15% rise in patients suffering from microbial keratitis during August and September.

The infection can be caused by people wearing their contact lenses for too long, or general poor lens hygiene, such as washing lenses in tap water, or swimming or showering while wearing them.

To avoid infection, wearers should not leave their cleaning solution in direct sunlight, ensuring they always use freshly poured solution, so not to weaken its effectiveness.

Furthermore, a common complaint is when sand or grit becomes trapped between the lens and eye, which can lead to ulcers. Those travelling to sandy or dusty countries may want to consider medical travel insurance to take the stress out of treatment costs while abroad.

Mr Hossain advises: "People need to be aware that washing lens cases with water is a danger at any time, but it multiplies in very hot environments when bugs spread more quickly.

"Swimming pool water also carries a risk, while pouring solution out and leaving it for long periods will almost void its ability to adequately clean lenses."

He said those who felt unable to stick to the strict safety standards regarding lens care while on holiday should look at the option of taking prescription glasses and sunglasses on their break instead.