Contact solution may do more harm than good

Last week, Bausch and Lomb asked retailers to remove ReNu, a contact lens cleaning solution, from their shelves. In doing this, the company takes one of the most popular contact lens cleaning solutions off the market and forces users to switch to other brands. While this is certainly not a life-and-death situation, it was prompted by a serious study, and if you are or know a contact wearer, it’s important to understand why such a popular product would be so readily removed from the market.

ReNu was connected with the eye disease fungal keratitis. In the worst case scenario, this fungus can cause permanent blindness, but even if a case doesn’t become that severe, it can still require costly treatments, including major surgery on the cornea. There have been recent outbreaks of this disease in Asia and Europe, and with this announcement, many are wondering if the same outbreak has now reached the United States.

According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), there have been 109 reports of suspected fungal keratitis infections in 17 states, and there is an investigation to see if certain contact lenses or products are linked to these reports. ReNu has not been found to be the definite cause of the disease, but Bausch and Lomb isn’t taking any chances.

Of the 109 initial reports, complete data is available on 30 of those patients, and 26 of them were using ReNu to clean their contact lenses. There are an estimated 30 million soft contact lens users in the United States, and if such a large percentage of them use ReNu, there is potential for widespread infection.

If someone is suspected of having this disease, corneal scrapings are required to get a proper diagnosis. Sometimes, these scrapings must be very deep to get a decent sample. Despite the seriousness of this infection, the technology is limited.

Perhaps this report serves as a good reminder for contact lens users to properly take care of themselves when replacing their lenses. The following tips come directly from the FDA:

– Wash your hands with soap and water, and dry (lint-free method) before handling contact lenses.

– Wear and replace lenses according to the schedule prescribed by the doctor.

– Follow the specific lens cleaning and storage guidelines from the doctor and the solution manufacturer.

– Keep the contact lens case clean and replace every three to six months.

– Remove the lenses and consult your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms such as redness, pain, tearing, increased light sensitivity, blurry vision, discharge or swelling.

This is a very early report, so we don’t know if the 109 early reports are full-blown cases of this form of keratitis. Simple antibiotic treatment may be able to treat the problem if discovered early enough, but if this keratitis does not respond to current conventional antibiotic treatments, major surgery may be the next step.

If you were using ReNu, do not finish your remaining supply. Immediately find another cleanser for your contact lenses. If you were using ReNu for any length of time, visit for updates on the recall.

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