Health Answers

Do you have to rub contact lenses to clean them if your cleanser is 'no rub'?

By Judy Foreman
June 29, 2009
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Q. Do you have to rub contact lenses to clean them if your cleanser is “no rub?’’

A. Yes, according to a new consumer “reminder’’ from the US Food and Drug Administration. The agency became concerned about the risk of infection in contact lens wearers after an outbreak of fungal infections in 2006 and an outbreak of amoeba infections in 2007. The FDA recalled two products after those outbreaks.

The agency convened an advisory panel in 2008 and an expert workshop last February to address concerns about eye infections among America’s 30 million contact lens wearers. Based on those recommendations, the FDA is now advising lens wearers to rub as well as rinse lenses, a policy supported by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association.

The new recommendations apply even if your product is advertised as “no rub,’’ and also include throwing out cleansers by the discard date, washing your hands when handling lenses, and allowing your lens storage case to dry (upside down, so water can drain) when lenses are removed. Never clean lenses with nonsterile water, which includes water from the tap, bottled water, water from lakes or oceans, or homemade saline solution. Saliva, of course, is not sterile, either.

Dr. Kathryn Colby, an eye surgeon at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, said that “rubbing lenses removes more debris than simply rinsing’’ - similar to washing dishes, where scrubbing removes more stuck food particles than just rinsing. “Less debris means cleaner lenses.’’

This month, the FDA wrote to the nine companies allowed to market “no rub’’ lenses. The letter is not an official enforcement action, but asks the companies to “come in’’ to discuss the new data on lens cleaning, said Dr. Dan Schultz, director of the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

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