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Burkholderia Cepacia Bilateral Microbial Keratitis and Colored Contact Lens Wearers

Product Defect

Burkholderia cepacia bilateral microbial keratitis is a type of infection in the eye. It occurs in the cornea and is caused by the presence of bacteria. As explained in an article published in the Journal of Optometry, “[b]acterial keratitis is a serious, potentially blinding, complication most often involving overnight contact lens wear.” More specifically, bilateral microbial keratitis has been linked to the use of colored contact lenses in recent years.

Colored contact lenses cover the iris (the colored part of the eye), and they are sold in both prescription and non-prescription forms. They are popular as an alternative to clear contact lenses as well as for fashion and holiday purposes. Unfortunately, while colored contact lenses have grown in popularity, especially among teens and young adults, our Florida product liability attorney knows that wearing colored contact lenses exposes many people to the risk of Burkholderia cepacia bilateral microbial keratitis.

As summarized in the Journal of Optometry:

“Complications associated with the use of cosmetic contact lenses are similar to those associated with conventional contact lens use. Of these, contact lens-related microbial keratitis represents the most feared complication. Microbial keratitis can be a visually devastating disease and is associated with significant personal and societal costs. . . . [A] case control study has established that cosmetic contact lens wearers are at a 16.5 fold increased risk of infection compared with wearers of lenses used for refractive correction.”

How Colored Contact Lenses Increase Wearers’ Risk for Bilateral Microbial Keratitis

Why are colored contact lenses more closely associated with Burkholderia cepacia bilateral microbial keratitis than clear lenses worn for corrective purposes? An article published in the journal Eye points to several potential causes. This includes lens-related, dispensing and patient factors:

  • Lens-Related Factors – Tinting applied to colored contact lenses that causes toxic reactions and increased bacterial adherence; increased surface roughness that causes damage to the cornea and allows for bacterial exposure; decreased lens wettability that facilitates adherence and proliferation of microbial organisms.
  • Dispensing Factors – The sale of counterfeit and unapproved colored contact lenses; sale of colored contact lenses by unlicensed vendors; and, inadequate patient assessments and counseling prior to dispensing.
  • Patient Factors – Improper lens cleaning, fitting and care.

In many cases, it is a combination of factors that ultimately leads to colored contact lens wearers’ infections. For example, an article in the publication Cureus discusses the case of a 19-year-old female who was diagnosed with Burkholderia cepacia bilateral microbial keratitis. The article concludes that her diagnosis was most likely the result of factors in all three categories:

“She owned several samples of colored cosmetics [contact lenses] and did not receive advice about wearing them from a clinic. She also did not receive any instructions about lens care. Hence, her method of lens care was not appropriate, and she did not wash her lenses and lens case. Further, she never changed the [multipurpose solution (MPS)] in the lens case. As for the MPS, the effect fades over time. In any case, such careless wearing and maintenance of the lenses turned out to be a risk factor, and the mechanical irritation to corneas due to poor fitting disrupted an epithelial barrier function and was thought to have caused B. cepacia infection.”

In order to understand the link between colored contact lenses and Burkholderia cepacia bilateral microbial keratitis, it is important to understand the nature of Burkholderia cepacian (B. cepacia) bacteria as well. As the Cureus article explains, “B. cepacia prefers a wet environment . . . [and] shows high viability and develops resistance to solutions for sterilization and disinfection. Because the inside of a [contact lens] case is always wet when storing the lenses, this microorganism could grow in the case even if a disinfecting lens care agent is being used.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledge the link between contact lenses and bacterial keratitis infections generally. The CDC also lists several additional factors that can increase a patient’s risk of developing a bacterial keratitis infection due to contact lens use. These factors include:

  • Eye diseases
  • Problems with the eyelids or tear ducts
  • Recent eye injuries
  • Weakened immune system

Lawsuits for Bilateral Microbial Keratitis Caused By Colored Contact Lenses

While some cases of Burkholderia cepacia bilateral microbial keratitis result from patients’ inadequate maintenance and care for their contact lenses, our Florida product liability attorney knows that many cases result from issues with the lenses themselves. In fact, even if a patient exercises due care, this won’t necessarily be enough to prevent bacteria from growing in a patient’s lenses and causing an infection.

Additionally, many patients don’t know how to care for their lenses because they don’t receive adequate consultation. Optometrists and other clinicians cannot assume that patients know how to care for their lenses—especially colored lenses that present unique risks and that have unique care requirements.

With these considerations in mind, patients who develop Burkholderia cepacia bilateral microbial keratitis as a result of wearing colored contact lenses will often have grounds to file lawsuits based on:

  • Colored Contact Lens Defects – Manufacturers that sell defective colored contact lenses can be held liable under product liability law. In general, a product is considered defective if it is unsafe for its intended use or if it comes with inadequate warnings. If colored contact lenses present a high risk for bacteria cultivation and corneal abrasion, or if they require an alternative to traditional MPS, this could be enough to support a product liability claim against their manufacturer.
  • Medical Malpractice – Health care providers who prescribe dangerous colored contact lenses or fail to provide adequate consultations may be liable for medical malpractice. All providers have a duty to meet a certain standard of care; and, when they fail to meet this standard, they can be held liable for patients’ medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Florida Product Liability Attorney at Searcy Denney

If you need to know more about filing a lawsuit for Burkholderia cepacia bilateral microbial keratitis caused by colored contact lenses, we encourage you to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with a Florida product liability attorney at Searcy Denney. Please call 800-780-8607 or contact us online to schedule an in-person or phone consultation at your convenience.

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