Love Your Lenses Week 2018
General Optical Council

Millennials Four Times Less Likely to Wash Hands Than Older People

Young people (18-24 years) are four times less likely to wash their hands before touching their eyes than people aged over 65 years. Touching or rubbing eyes with unclean hands can spread infections, including the common cold.

The findings have been published by eye health regulator the General Optical Council to mark Love Your Lenses Week 2018 (24-30 March), which is urging the UK’s 5 million contact lens wearers to ‘always wash hands and dry before touching your eye.’

Research into the habits of over 2,000 contact lens wearers found that more than 1 in 4 (28%) of contact lens wearers aged 18-24 don’t always wash their hands before handling their contact lenses compared with 1 in 20 (6%) of contact lens wearers aged 65+.

Contact lenses are safe when looked after properly, but failure to follow advice about how to wear and care for lenses is associated with increased risk of developing eye infections.

Professor Phillip Morgan, Director of Eurolens Research and Head of Optometry at The University of Manchester, said:

“Thoroughly washing and drying hands before applying contact lenses significantly reduces the risk of transferring potentially harmful germs to the eye, making it one of the most important steps for wearers of all types of contact lenses to remember.”

Mr Badrul Hussain, consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Moorfields Eye Hospital, said:

“Whilst serious infections are rare, every year we treat patients with eye infections that could have been avoided if appropriate contact lens care and wear advice was followed.

“Effective hand-washing is an essential part of contact lens care as it limits the spread of harmful bacteria. I would advise contact lens wearers to always wash and dry their hands thoroughly before handling their contact lenses or lens cases.”

The General Optical Council has produced the Rule of T.H.U.M.B. mnemonic as part of a package to promote effective hand-washing. It draws on academic research summarised in the Thumbs Up for Healthy Eyes report, which highlights thumbs as an area of the hand that is often not washed adequately.

Rule of T.H.U.M.B Thumbs - don’t forget them! Happy Birthday – sing it twice while you wash your hands Under the nails – need a good scrub Massage soap into palms, backs of hands, fingers and thumbs Both hands dry? Now you can touch your eye

Vicky McDermott, Chief Executive and Registrar at the General Optical Council, which orchestrates the Love Your Lenses campaign on behalf of the optical sector, said:

“Contact lenses are enjoyed safely by millions of people every day. Following advice on how to wear and care for contact lenses allows people to continue to benefit from wearing contact lenses. That is why we are reminding people to always wash hands and dry before touching your eye.”

Further information about the Love Your Lenses campaign and the ‘dos and don’ts’ of wearing contact lenses can be found at loveyourlenses.com.

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