Recently – in both Australia and the UK – there has been an increased incidence of corneal infections associated with the use of water on contact lenses. These infections are caused by Acanthamoeba, a parasite commonly found in tap and other sources of water. This infection, called Acathamoebakeratitis (AK), can be very difficult to treat. In some of these patients, unfortunately there was a severe and permanent loss of vision. This follows on from a previous epidemic of AK in USA around the Chicago area about 7 years ago where the use of water on contact lenses was also strongly implicated as a major cause.
Under no circumstances should any type of water be used on contact lenses. Full stop, end of story. Quite simply, water should not be used for cleaning, rinsing or storage of the contact lenses. This point is non-negotiable. Unfortunately, there are some patients – and practitioners – who still think it is OK to use water on contact lenses. Further, there will be some patients who remark that ‘they have used water on contact lenses for many years without a problem’. I have also seen such patients; some may be lucky and continue to use water without having serious complications. However, I have also seen long-term ‘water users’ who end up having an episode of AK in one or both eyes. End result – severe loss of vision that cannot be fixed. No second chances. All because water was used on the contact lenses. It really is not worth the risk.