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What Factors Affect Contact Lens Discomfort? Optometry and Vision Science Presents Research Update

Do you have dry eyes or other symptoms related to wearing contact lenses? If so you're not alone—up to 50 percent of contact lens wearers experience dryness or discomfort at least occasionally. New research aimed at understanding and managing this common and complex problem is presented in the special August issue of Optometry anVision Scienceofficial journal of the American Academy of Optometry. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer

The 25 papers in the special issue bring together the most current research on contact lens discomfort—likely the single biggest problem facing everyone involved with contact lenses, according to Feature Issue Guest Editor Jason J. Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, of University of Alabama Birmingham and colleagues. They write, "This body of work is a source of optimism that we can reduce or even eliminate the problem of contact lens discomfort."

New Clinical and Scientific Research on Contact Lens Discomfort
The product of two years of work by international experts, the special issue presents new developments toward understanding a problem that affects millions of contact lens users worldwide. Topics include:

  • A new "contact lens user experience" questionnaire, which may aid in developing new contact lenses and helping patients to overcome barriers to successful contact lens wear
  • Neural hypersensitivity as a contributor to contact lens discomfort
  • Ocular allergy, inflammation, and biomarkers for contact lens discomfort
  • Associations between discomfort and contact lens design and care products

A central problem is a lack of understanding of the causes and contributors to contact lens discomfort. It's challenging to find objective measures that reflect the subjective symptoms reported by contact lens wearers. A study led by María Jesús González-García, PhD, of IOBA-University of Valladolid, Spain, evaluated two ocular surface factors that might contribute to contact lens discomfort:  corneal sensitivity and the presence of inflammation-promoting molecules in the tear film.

The results showed no difference in either factor between patients with versus without contact lens discomfort. Yet in both groups, patients' symptom ratings were significantly related to corneal pressure sensitivity and to one specific inflammatory mediator (epidermal growth factor).

The lack of between-group differences might mean that hydrogel contact lens wear has "no meaningful effect" on corneal sensitivity or inflammatory mediators. However, the researchers note that the patients were tested after 24 hours without contact lenses—it may be that if either of these factors contributes to discomfort, the ocular surface recovers shortly after contact lenses are removed.

Contact lens discomfort has a major impact on patients, vision care professionals, and the contact lens industry—worth $3 billion per year in the United States alone. Symptoms such as foreign body sensation, burning, itching, or dryness are the main cause of discontinuing contact lens wear.

"Contact lens comfort remains a challenge for eye care practitioners and their patients," comments Michael Twa, OD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Optometry and Vision Science. "Much progress has been made and, overall, patients now enjoy considerably greater comfort than just a decade or so ago. We hope the papers in our special issue will highlight the latest research on contact lens comfort discoveries and advances."

Click here to read this special issue. 

About Optometry and Vision Science 
Optometry and Vision Science
official journal of the American Academy of Optometry, is the most authoritative source for current developments in optometry, physiological optics, and vision science. This frequently cited monthly scientific journal has served primary eye care practitioners for more than 75 years, promoting vital interdisciplinary exchange among optometrists and vision scientists worldwide.

About the American Academy of Optometry 
Founded in 1922, the American Academy of Optometry is committed to promoting the art and science of vision care through lifelong learning. All members of the Academy are dedicated to the highest standards of optometric practice through clinical care, education or research.

About Wolters Kluwer 
Wolters Kluwer is a global leader in professional information services. Professionals in the areas of legal, business, tax, accounting, finance, audit, risk, compliance and healthcare rely on Wolters Kluwer's market leading information-enabled tools and software solutions to manage their business efficiently, deliver results to their clients, and succeed in an ever more dynamic world.

Wolters Kluwer reported 2015 annual revenues of €4.2 billion. The group serves customers in over 180 countries, and employs over 19,000 people worldwide. The company is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands. Wolters Kluwer shares are listed on Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices. Wolters Kluwer has a sponsored Level 1 American Depositary Receipt program. The ADRs are traded on the over-the-counter market in the U.S. (WTKWY).

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