Dr Carmen Abesamis-Dichoso is an optometrist practicing in the Philippines. She focuses her practice on specialty contact lens fitting – for Keratoconus, Irregular corneas, post or failed Lasik and severe dry eye. She is a lecturer and a strong advocate for myopia management and control both locally and internationally. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, International Association of Contact Lens Educators and the Philippine College of Optometrists. She is currently the treasurer of the Asia Pacific Council of Optometry and a member of the Executive committee of the World Council of Optometry .
The COVID-19 crisis has radically changed the practice landscape for optometrists. Safety, more than affordability and convenience, is now the principal consideration for both patients and ODs. Against this backdrop, contact lens use and maintenance have come under greater scrutiny. Patients have been asking whether they should continue using them, and if so what adjustments they need to make on their maintenance regimen. The consensus, both on the practitioner and academic sides, is that contact lenses are still safe to use during the pandemic. Among the organizations supporting this position are CORE (Centre for Ocular Research and Education), BCLA (British Contact Lens Association) and the AAO (American Academy of Optometry).
It is in this context that ODs should continue (or in most cases, start) promoting daily disposable contact lenses (dailies). Safety is the primary feature of this type of contact lens. Properly used, complemented by a strict hygiene regimen, they provide the safest option for patients vis-a-vis the other contact lens types.
But safety is not the only advantage dailies provide. Consider also: daily disposable contact lens promises the following to practitioners and patients:
- Enhance Comfort. It has been well documented and reported that the most common complain and concern of contact lens wearers is discomfort due to end of day dryness . Daily disposable contact lens (1)
- Cost. The daily cost of wearing any daily disposable lens brand in relation to the number of times the lenses are worn every week , on average, each week. Assuming that patient is compliant with the specified schedule of lens replacement and solution usage if monthlies, or frequently replaced lenses are worn, we should take into account cost of the lenses, lens care solutions and professional fees. Daily disposables are less expensive than longer modalities (monthlies, bi-weekly , frequent replaced lenses ) when worn ≤ 5 days per week. This becomes a bit more expensive when worn 7 times a week. In the Philippines, where I practice, it goes down to Php76.50 or US$1.39/day.
- Convenience is equal to high compliance. Since daily disposable contact lens do not require cleaning , soaking and therefore no need for contact lens case, this makes the compliance very high . You make it simple. You wear it ,you throw it after. (2)
- Less complication. Corneal infiltrative event (CIE) is lesser with daily disposable contact lens . There is no long term protein build on the use of daily disposable contact lens. The protein build up causes decrease comfort and blurring of vision . This is almost eliminated with the use of dailies. (3))
- Compatible with the tear film. Our tear film is complex structure with a complex function. Putting something in contact with it should produce little or no effect – which is possible through a disposable lens material that is designed to work well with the tear film through activated blink moisture. (4)
- Disposable contact lens offers clarity. Since dehydration causes changes in base curve, shape and optics of the lens, it affects the vision of the contact lens wearer during the day . There is less dehydration with daily disposable contacts. (5)
The benefits of dailies predate the pandemic. But these benefits take on increased importance because of the fear engendered by the crisis. As the Good Book says, “The old has become new again.” I wrote this article while sheltering in place (quarantined) in Manila. With time aplenty, I have been scouring the internet and reading about the struggles of many optometrists. I join the universal fraternity of our profession in wishing that everyone will come out of this well. But in this crisis I also see an opportunity for optometrists to shine. Promoting dailies as a safe alternative for contact lens users is one such opportunity.