Southern Regional Congress in Melbourne: What I learnt
In late May, Andrew, Jillian and I attended the Southern Regional Congress (SRC) in Melbourne. This is the biggest optometric conference in Australia and it is held each year in Melbourne. This year there were over 850 delegates and – as in previous years – they were treated to some excellent lectures from both local and overseas speakers. The conference has a strong clinical aspect with many presentations outlining what is considered best practice for the consulting room, however there were also some very good talks which provided delegates with all the latest developments in ophthalmic research.
One of the highlights of the conference was a wonderful lecture presented by Professor Mark Willcox from the University of New South Wales. Mark was a very worthy recipient of the 2017 H Barry Collin Research Medal which was presented to him prior to his invited lecture at the SRC. I have known Mark for over 25 years and he has an outstanding reputation throughout the world based on the exceptional research – both clinical and scientific – he has done in the field of contact lens microbiology. In his presentation at the SRC, Mark gave an overview of the main causative agents of contact lens-related infection and he also talked about the new antimicrobial contact lenses that were being developed to try and reduce the incidence of infection and other contact lens-related complications.
In his lecture, Mark pointed out that well over 10% of cases of contact lens-related infection were associated with daily disposable contact lenses. This is a very disturbing finding. In a previous blog, I expressed my love for daily disposable lenses and I still remain a huge devotee of this contact lens modality due to the advantages of no lens maintenance and a fresh lens being inserted onto the eye each day. As mentioned previously, there has been a considerable increase in the use of these lenses over the last five years and it is expected that their use will continue to grow. However, given the advantages outlined above, one would expect the infection rate with daily disposable lenses to be minimal and yet this is definitely not the case.
I believe there are two main reasons for this higher than expected infection rate with daily disposable contact lenses. First there are an increasing number of new contact lens patients who are fitted – justifiably – straight into daily disposable lenses. Hence, these patients have never been taught anything about contact lens maintenance and disinfection. Now one could argue that they don’t need to, as the daily disposables are single use lenses. However, that brings me to my second concern, namely that many people reuse the daily disposable lenses and this is often with scant regard for the appropriate form of contact lens maintenance (instead just using saline, wetting drops, water, etc for lens disinfection). The recent studies – including the data from Mark’s lecture – would certainly seem to suggest that daily disposable lenses are often being reused. As I mentioned before, I am a big fan of the daily disposable lenses, however I do worry that we are opening a ‘Pandora’s box’ with these lenses due to the potential for reuse and also possibly subsequent inappropriate lens maintenance when they are (wrongly) reused.