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Communicating imaginatively

Patients develop their own contact lens habits and need to be reminded of the importance of hand hygiene, writes AOP chief executive Henrietta Alderman

23 May 2019 by Henrietta Alderman

Are you one of those people who always does what they’re told? If so, you are unusual! Even in very important things, like the correct wear and care of contact lenses, people are poor at complying with instructions. Good habits are hard to make and, once broken, very hard to reinstate – particularly if there are no immediate consequences.

This seems to be a particular struggle among contact lens wearers, despite the very serious consequences that can happen, albeit in rare cases.

Optometrists are increasingly aware that communication about safe use of contact lenses is an ongoing issue and never to be taken for granted. Patients develop their own habits and need to be reminded of the importance of hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting lenses, keeping contact lenses away from water (while wearing them or not) and the potential perils of makeup.

Aftercare checks and questions need to be rigorous even for patients who have been wearing contact lenses for years – possibly even more so. And the ways of communicating need to be imaginative so that the message is not lost. The AOP’s patient advice on wearing soft and rigid contact lenses are two of many patient resources that can be downloaded for use in the practice and given to patients.

It is also useful for the whole practice team to be aware of contact lens protocols so that they can pick up possible signs of non-compliance through inconsistent ordering of new supplies or conversations in the waiting room. The AOP practices CET and our CPD communication courses help to give practitioners the communication tools they need.

“One of OT’s biggest records was related to the story of a women who did not know that she had 27 contact lenses in one eye”


One of OT’s biggest records was related to the story of a women who did not know that she had 27 contact lenses in one eye until the incredulous surgeon started to remove them. We experienced our biggest single day of website hits, and downloads of the contact lens patient leaflets, for that story. It gave us an opportunity to highlight through all the national media channels the importance of compliance and aftercare, and the importance of the optometrist.

As a very happy daily contact lens wearer, I have been delighted to see the efforts being made by all the large companies to recycle lenses. We know from Johnson & Johnson research that 77% of British contact lens wearers would recycle their contact lenses if they could. It is very good to hear about initiatives to enable consumers to recycle and for all of us to do as much as we can to reduce plastic waste in landfills and waterways. OT has led the way in doing what it can to reduce plastic too by being the first journal in the sector to have a biodegradable wrapper made from potato starch.

June is an important month for the AOP as our AGM closes off one Association year and opens another. We are delighted that with over 82% of registered optometrists as our members, we can truly represent and lead the sector. We are immensely grateful for the support we receive from our many members who contribute to the greater good of the whole profession through their work on the AOP Board, Council and through many other means.

Image credit: Getty/Microgen

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