'No water' contact lens initiative recognised

No water campaign highlighting the risks of using non-sterile water for contact lens hygiene wins award

Irenie Ekkeshis

A campaign launched to raise awareness of the risks associated with using non-sterile water to clean contact lenses has been recognised at the Vision Pioneer awards.

Established in 2011 by Irenie Ekkeshis, who lost the sight in her right eye after contracting a rare corneal infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis, the No water initiative won Campaign of the Year at the inaugural awards ceremony in London earlier this month (13 June).

Recognising the importance of the initiative, the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) produced its own No water stickers for use on contact lens packaging.

The stickers have since been adopted in a number of countries around the world, including the US.

Ms Ekkeshis told OT: “It’s been great to work closely with the BCLA on this project and it’s been pleasing to see the impact the campaign has had.”

She continued: “Being diagnosed with a rare and debilitating eye infection changed my life in the course of one weekend. It was awful, the most horrific disease you could imagine and I wanted to do something to stop it happening to others.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of the advice you hear around contact lens wear can be quite complicated but the No water message is relatively simple and easy to get across.”

While ClearLab became the first manufacturer to put the No water message on all of its packaging at the point of production in the UK, Ms Ekkeshis hopes more manufacturers will follow suit.

“We have come a long way but there’s a lot more that could be done,” she said. “We need more companies to get on board and I would really like to focus now on stopping the use of images of water in contact lens advertising.

“That is pretty counter-intuitive and needs to stop. We need to build a coalition of support to commit to stop [wearers] making the association between water and contact lenses.”

Chief executive of the BCLA, Cheryl Donnelly, added: “The No water campaign has been a major success and we are delighted that Irenie has received the recognition she deserves.

“She has worked tirelessly with us to lobby the industry and make a real difference. We look forward to seeing the campaign go from strength to strength in the months and years ahead.”

Others shortlisted for the Awards' Campaign of the Year accolade included: Blind Veterans UK’s No One Alone and Guide Dogs’ Pavement Parking.

Ms Ekkeshis previously shared her experiences with OT