Blindness checks for contact lens cleaners

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 January, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 January, 1994, 12:00am

CONTACT lens cleaning solutions will be tested by the Consumer Council to see if they kill a rare but blinding amoeba which claimed its second victim yesterday.

Doctors at the Prince of Wales Hospital confirmed that another contact lens wearer had been virtually blinded in one eye by an ulcer caused by the amoeba. The first case was publicised three weeks ago.

Dr Dennis Lam Shun-Chiu, a lecturer in ophthalmology at the Chinese University, said: ''The Consumer Council is very concerned about this issue and we will be giving the investigation our full support.

''The idea is to carry out tests on cleaning solutions currently on sale in Hong Kong to see if they are capable of eliminating this problem.'' But a spokesman for contact lens and solution manufacturer Bausch and Lomb said he believed no single lens care solution could eliminate the amoeba.

The spokesman added: ''The only way to kill this amoeba is to use thermal disinfecting devices, although if wearers comply with care instructions we believe eyes and lenses will be kept in good condition.'' The latest case of the ulcer, known as acanthamoeba keratitis, involved a young woman who had been wearing contact lenses for only nine months when the problem first emerged.

Doctors said she started suffering from eye redness, irritation, foreign body sensation, photophobia, corneal haziness and severe eye pain but it was 15 months before the problem was finally identified.

The first case involved a 31-year-old woman who had been wearing contact lenses for 10 years. She is now responding well to treatment.

If the problem is detected in its early stages, doctors say treatment is likely to be completely effective.

But Dr Lam warned that the two cases were probably only the tip of the iceberg.

The territory's 400,000 lens wearers were warned to follow instructions on packets of cleaning solutions.