News Releases

October 12, 2000

News Tip: Those with contact lenses may need to take extra care while preparing peppers

ATLANTA - People with contact lenses, particularly soft lenses, may not be aware that certain foods that they may handle during meal preparation can contaminate their lenses when they later handle those lenses-even after repeated hand washings and the lapse of several hours.

Some foods, especially those in the pepper family-jalapenos, cabaneros, and others-when cut up and handled, leave an invisible residue of oil on the hands which can then contaminate lenses when the wearer takes them out or cleans them. These contaminated lenses, when put back in the eye, can cause corneal damage-cyto-toxic surface changes. The contaminated contact lenses should be thrown away and the affected eyes will need to heal for several days before attempting new contact lenses, says Buddy Russell, FCLSA, of the Emory Eye Center's Contact Lens Service. Additionally, the cases that the contaminated lenses might have been stored in should be disposed of.

With many cooks now venturing into various ethnic cuisines, which more often call for foods from the pepper family than typical American cuisine, the chances of those with contact lenses contaminating their lenses and corneas are more likely than in the past.

"I've seen many patients who have unwittingly 'poisoned' their corneas with pepper oils from their hands," says Russell. "There is a simple remedy. Buy a box of powderless latex gloves and use them whenever preparing the peppers that can potentially damage your lenses and harm your eyes. When in doubt, simply use them. They're cheap and disposable."

Media Contact: Joy H. Bell

Our Emory campus location:

Copyright © Emory Eye Center - All Rights Reserved | Emory Clinic Building B, 1365B Clifton Road, NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30322 USA