According to the Center for Contact Lens Research (CCLR) at University of Waterloo College of Optometry, some 2.7 million patients become dropouts each year.

The good news? You can prevent many of those dropouts by knowing why they discontinue contact lens wear. Here, well look further at what these reasons are. Then, you can read the following pages for ways to address these issues.

Comfort Level
The number one reason patients ages 13 to 59 discontinued contact lens wear was discomfort, as cited by 49% of those surveyed by the CCLR. Eye infection/irritation came in third, at 31%.

These percentages do not surprise me. Every week, patients tell me their lenses are uncomfortable and that theyre thinking about switching back to glasses, says Scranton, Pa., optometrist Joseph P. Shovlin. And in these cases, the discomfort often stems from allergies or dryness, which can cause irritation, redness or discharge.

A Bothersome Issue
The second highest dropout reason was too much bother,at 45%. In my opinion, this should not be included [as a reason] because I have found that these patients are not motivated from the start, Dr. Shovlin says.

Insertion/removal difficulties came in fourth with 29%. For some patients, this may be another way of saying too much bother. I have yet to meet a patient who cannot insert or remove his or her contact lenses, Dr. Shovlin says.

For others, the problem is dexterity. For these patients, extended-wear lenses may be the answer.

The Vision Thing
In the study done by CCLR, 22% said their contact lenses didnt meet vision needs. In a 2002 multi-sponsor poll that look-ed at dropouts by age group, 11.5% of 18- to 34-year-olds cited did not correct vision/vision needs changed as the reason for dropping out. In this same study, 21.6% of 35- to 49-year-olds and 29.4% of those age 50 and older cited this same reason. This clearly indicates that age determines visual satisfaction. For example, presbyopic patients who believe they will still need to wear glasses, may be less likely to choose contact lenses, Dr. Shovlin says.

Because 16% of patients dropped out due to uncorrected astigmatism, O.D.s may need to better inform patients about using gas permeable lenses or soft torics. By providing these patients with the best vision possible, well lose fewer of them, Dr. Shovlin says.

Of course, you will always lose some patients (5%) to refractive surgery. Admittedly, we have very little control over those who choose this option, Dr. Shovlin says. Still, if we can make contact lens wear more comfortable, especially for the presbyopes, we will not lose as many of them.

One final dropout category: the miscellaneous group, which includes those patients who dropped out due to expense (22%). By researching affordable contact lens options, however, you may be able to prevent some of these patients from dropping out, Dr. Shovlin says.

Vol. No: 141:04Issue: 4/15/04