Objective: To review existing studies and case reports regarding complications associated with contact lenses (CLs) from unregulated sources of supply and to identify any relevant trends.
Methods: A systematic literature search was performed to locate publications concerning complications associated with CLs obtained from unregulated sources of supply.
Results: A total of 23 articles were identified that represent 70 individual cases. All 8 of the pre-2006 case reports originated from the United States and the United Kingdom, whereas from 2006 onwards, only 2 of the 15 reports came from these locations. Over-the-counter supply accounted for 73% (51/70) of cases, whereas 17% (12/70) were borrowed or shared lenses and 6% (4/70) lenses were obtained through the Internet. Nearly, three quarters of patients (30/42, 71%) waited longer than 48 hours after the onset of symptoms before seeking medical attention; 10 patients waited longer than a week, and 5 longer than a month. Microbial keratitis (MK) was reported in 43 (61%) patients, with permanent damage occurring in 72% (31/43) of patients followed to conclusion. Known risk factors associated for MK were present in all cases irrespective of whether the patients developed MK.
Conclusions: There are various reasons to presume that the unregulated supply of CLs might result in the use of inappropriate lenses, increase the risk of poorer lens hygiene, and militate against the prompt treatment of any consequent complications. There is some indication that the introduction of regulations to control the supply of plano CLs has alleviated the level of complications.