There is a major disconnect between patients’ perceived lens wear compliance and their actual wear and care practices. According to a pilot study in the October issue of Eye & Contact Lens, the majority of participants were aware of the risk factors and thought they were exercising proper lens care, when in fact, they were non-compliant with doctors’ recommendations.

In this study, 162 contact lens wearers were questioned about their lens wear practices and knowledge of risk factors for complications at the Optometry Clinic at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Eighty-six percent of patients believed they were compliant, while 14% identified themselves as noncompliant. Using a scoring model, the researchers determined that just 32% demonstrated good compliance, 44% exhibited average compliance and 24% were noncompliant.

Only 34% of patients who perceived themselves as compliant exhibited a good level of compliance. There was no correlation between awareness and proper lens care, because 80% of patients knew the risk factors.

Considering these disappointing findings, should practitioners continue to educate patients on the importance of compliance? Study author Danielle Robertson, O.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says “yes.”

“Patient education has been the gold standard for years, and we need to continue to educate,” she says. Dr. Robertson explains that additional emphasis is needed in several areas.

“These include exposure to tap water, proper use of cleaning solutions and of course, overnight wear of contact lenses. It is also imperative that we begin to develop new strategies that may be more effectively targeted at modifying actual behaviors.”

Eye care practitioners may need to get creative. “We need to convey a message to our patients—non-compliant practices with contact lenses are like failing to fasten your seatbelt,” says Dr. Robertson. “Some accidents are more severe than others.”

Bui TH, Cavanagh HD, Robertson DM. Patient compliance during contact lens wear: perceptions, awareness, and behavior. Eye Contact Lens. 2010 Oct 8. [Epub ahead of print]