Eye Drops Recall in US: Bacterial Outbreak Leads to Infection, Blindness, and Eyeball Removal
Global Pharma recalled eyedrops that have been linked to a drug-resistant bacteria strain.
A rare strain of bacteria called “Pseudomonas aeruginosa” has been linked to 68 infections across 16 states, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The drug-resistant bacteria was transferred to the infected via eye drops, and has been connected to one death and many severe injuries. Eight patients are reported to have lost their vision and four needed their eyeballs surgically removed. Most of the patients diagnosed with the infection reported using eye drops and artificial tears, according to the CDC. Learn more about the eye drops recall — and whether you should be concerned — below.
Why People Use Eyedrops
There are lots of reasons. Eyedrops keep the eye lubricated and relieve dryness and irritation, which many people experience for reasons including aging, hormone changes, autoimmune disease, or allergic eye disease. In an injured eye, artificial tears also promote surface healing, reduce the feeling of a surface scratch, and flush out any residual contaminating or harmful particles. According to a Statista estimate based on the US Census data and Simmons National Consumer Survey (NHCS), a total of 117.45 million Americans used eye drops and eye wash in 2020.
What to Know About the Recent Eye Drop Recalls
Before this outbreak, Pseudomonas aeruginosa had never been found in the US. Ten different brands were identified as possible links to the bacterial outbreak, and two brands of eye drops were subsequently pulled from shelves in January and February of 2023.
Although infected patients reported using different brands, EzriCare Artificial Tears was the one most commonly reported. In January, the CDC warned people to stop using EzriCare Artificial Tears and Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears. In February, the company that owns the brands — Global Pharma — issued a recall following a formal recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The CDC now recommends that anyone who has used the recalled products and is experiencing symptoms — such as yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye, discomfort or pain, redness, blurry vision, or an increase of sensitivity to light — should contact a doctor immediately.
How To Use Eyedrops Safely
Dr. Thomas Steinemann, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, told CNN that eyedrops are perfectly safe when manufactured and used correctly. He emphasized that for the average eye drop user, there is “probably very little concern,” and people should not stop using their eye medicines.
Steinemann did warn that these recalls prove the importance of using eye drops safely. He cautions patients against using preservative-free eye drops, like EzriCare Artificial Tears, as contamination can (clearly) lead to serious infection. “Once they are contaminated or bacteria get in the bottle, then obviously there’s a source for bacteria to multiply and to even transmit bacteria back into the eye,” he said. “Most drops on the market have preservatives in them that would counteract that threat.”
Put In Eye Drops Correctly
Putting liquid into your eye can be intimidating or even scary. But it doesn’t have to be. With a little practice, you’ll get the hang of it. Follow these helpful steps, courtesy of the National Eye Institute:
- Tilt your head back and look up.
- With one hand, pull your lower eyelid down and away from your eyeball — this makes a “pocket” for the drops.
- With the other hand, hold the eye drop bottle upside down with the tip just above the pocket.
- Squeeze the prescribed number of eyedrops into the pocket.
- For at least one minute, close your eye and press your finger lightly on your tear duct (small hole in the inner corner of your eye) — this keeps the eye drop from draining into your nose.
Note: If you need to use more than one type of eye drop, wait at least five minutes between each type.
More Steps To Prevent Eye Infection:
- Watch your hands before touching the eye drop bottle or your eye.
- Avoid touching the tip of the bottle to your eye or eyelid; also, avoid touching the bottle tip with your hands.
- Check the expiration date on your eye drops.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.