By James O'Brien
Holidaymakers have been encouraged to wear prescription glasses and sunglasses instead of contact lenses to lower the chances of developing further eye problems in the sun.
Dr Parwez Hossain said more people generally visit the casualty department in the eye unit at Southampton General Hospital from the first week of August to mid-September because of sub-standard lens hygiene and accidents on summer holidays.
"Although we are making progress in terms of general understanding of the importance of contact lens care, we almost always see an increase in infections when people return from holiday, particularly if they have been to very hot countries," said Mr Hossain, a consultant ophthalmologist at the hospital.
Of the three million contact lens wearers in Britain, approximately 1,200 suffer from contact lens-related infection microbial keratitis every year. The number of cases dealt with at Southampton General traditionally goes up by roughly 15 per cent in August and September.
Most incidents are caused by people wearing their lenses too much or poor hygiene. In many cases people expose their lenses to micro-organisms by washing them with tap water or wearing them in the swimming pool or shower. This can lead to infections to the front surface of the eye.
It is also not uncommon for lens wearers to leave solution in direct sunlight and later put their lenses in it. This lessens its effect when disinfecting lenses.
Other holidaymakers have been left with ulcers caused by grains of sand becoming lodged between a lens and the eye.
"People need to be aware that washing lens cases with water is a danger at any time, but it multiplies in very hot environments when bugs spread more quickly," added Mr Hossain.
"Swimming pool water also carries a risk, while pouring solution out and leaving it for long periods will almost void its ability to adequately clean lenses.
"Meanwhile, although this is slightly more unfortunate, not enough people are aware of the vulnerability of lenses on the beach when sand can creep in between the cornea and the lens and begin to wear down the surface of the eye.
"If people aren't able to adhere to the strict safety standards required when wearing lenses, or don't want to be concerned about their eye health when relaxing on holiday, their best and safest option is to take a break and stick to prescription glasses and sunglasses."