As the poor economic state of the the world forces people to tighten their belts we see more and more people starting to push the boundaries of rules and regulations to try and save a bit of much needed money. Optometry patients are no exception to this.

In no place do we see this phenomenon more than in the non-compliance of frequency replacement contact lenses. Most notably the Acuvue brand wearers. All Acuvue soft contact lens products are registered two-weekly replacement contact lenses but frighteningly most contact lens wearers will wear their Acuvue soft contact lenses for between 4 to 6 weeks!

Sadly, some of the fault lies with the Optometrist who do not explain the frequency replacement schedule and the risks of not following the schedule adequately to their patients. This however should now be rectified by the Consumer Protection Act that was introduced in South Africa on 31 March 2011. The CPA laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors and may provide additional protection for the weak and those unable to take care of themselves. The CPA under Section 41 deals with false, misleading or deceptive representations when marketing or promoting goods or services. This section prohibits the making of false misrepresentations about the standards, quality or characteristics of goods or services. It also forces suppliers to disclose all relevant facts that relate to the above mentioned features. Under this section a failure to disclose the correct replacement frequency to a patients can be interpreted as a breach of this law and can potentially land the Optometrist in very hot water!

To further highlight the risks of non compliance with wearing soft contact lenses I would like to quote a recent article from Contact Lenses Today in which Dr Loretta B. Szczotka-Flynn wrote the following in a research review of contact lens induced complications:

“Dr. Kathy Dumbleton and colleagues at the Centre for Contact Lens Research in Canada recently reported a significant association between non-compliance with contact lens replacement and contact lens related complications. They assessed surveys from 501 silicone hydrogel lens wearers from seven eyecare practitioner’s offices regarding lens wear and any lens related problems in the preceding 12 months. About half of their respondents wore 2-week replacement and about half wore 1-month replacement silicone hydrogel contact lenses.

Sixty-seven percent wore their lenses for longer than the manufacturers’ recommended replacement frequency and sixty percent wore their lenses for longer than their eyecare practitioner’s recommended replacement frequency. The rate of potential complications was significantly higher for wearers who were non-compliant (complication rate of twenty-six percent) with their eyecare provider’s recommended replacement frequency compared to compliant wearers (complication rate of eighteen percent), p=0.028.

Picture above shows a contact lens induced corneal ulcer

Picture above shows a contact lens induced corneal ulcer

Interestingly, an effect of rubbing lenses was also noted to be protective; complication rates were higher for those multipurpose solution users who reported never/almost never rubbing and rinsing their lenses when compared with those who did this every night (twenty-nine percent versus seventeen percent, p=0.007).

This complements a study by Yeung and coworkers that similarly reported a trend toward a higher rate of contact lens complications in patients that were non-compliant with replacement frequency.2

Unfortunately, many soft lens wearers stretch the recommended replacement schedules as recommended by their eyecare provider. Now, at least two studies show that there is a trend towards a higher rate of contact lens related complications in those patients that are non-compliant with the recommended replacement frequency. In these two separate studies, encompassing about 1500 soft lens wearers, there was either a trend or a statistically significant increase in rates of signs and symptoms consistent with potential contact lens complications in those patients that self-reported a replacement frequency longer than that which was recommended.”

Taking all of this in it should be clear that it is simply not a good idea to over extend the wearing frequency of your soft contact lenses. It’s like playing Russian roulette, if you keep on pulling the trigger eventually you will find the bullet!

Keep to your wearing schedule as it was explained to you and if you are unsure contact your Optometrist or leave feel free to contact us. Your eyes are worth it!