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FDA Raises Alarms Over Bacterial Contamination in Eye-Care Products

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The announcement has triggered a wave of concerns among users of eye-care products, particularly in those designed to alleviate dry and irritated eyes.

This week, the FDA raised alarms about bacterial contamination in over two dozen eye-care products, urging consumers to steer clear of these items.

The contamination was discovered at manufacturing facilities; however, no injuries have been reported as of now.

The announcement has triggered a wave of concerns among users of eye-care products, particularly in those designed to alleviate dry and irritated eyes.

Earlier this year, federal regulators initiated two voluntary recalls of unsterile, preservative-free eyedrops due to a bacterial infection outbreak. This outbreak resulted in at least 14 cases of permanent vision loss and four deaths. Hundreds of potentially unsafe eye drops were also reported to the FDA in June.

Today, the FDA has emphasized the heightened scrutiny it’s applying to eye-care products due to their direct application into the eye, bypassing some of the body's natural defenses.

As these concerns rise, The Washington Post spoke with experts to provide insight on the eye drop warnings and recalls.

FDA spokesman Jeremy Kahn told The Post that surveillance has increased in recent months after a decline during the pandemic, potentially contributing to more regulatory actions.

Though, most of the concern centers on the question, "Are these eye drops still safe?" as millions of Americans use eyedrops for conditions such as dry eye, glaucoma and itchiness caused by allergies or air pollution.

Amidst the uncertainties, Christopher Starr, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, reassured in the article that eye drops are generally safe. He encouraged users to feel confident if their products haven't been mentioned in a recall.

However, T. Mark Johnson, a retina specialist, advised consumers through The Post to stick to products from major manufacturers, emphasizing their well-established protocols and safety testing.

Johnson highlighted that recent issues are often centered around smaller producers of off-brand or "no-name" drops.

Mina Massaro-Giordano, a clinical ophthalmology professor, also spoke to The Post and urged caution, and recommended consulting with eye doctors for trusted product recommendations.

Massaro-Giordano noted the importance of opting for established companies with a long-standing reputation.

The article also addressed the question of using expired eye drops.

Johnson also stressed the importance of checking expiration dates, discarding expired products and using proper application techniques to minimize the risk of contamination.

The FDA's recent warnings have urged a reevaluation of eye-care product safety, with experts providing guidance on choosing safe brands and ensuring proper use to maintain best eye care practices.

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