Long-time contact lens wearers tend to have drier eyes, so they commonly use artificial tears.
But the brand Ezricare's generic over-the-counter artificial tears has prompted warnings from the CDC and FDA about bacterial eye infections. These cases are rare, but the infection moves fast in the body and has been deadly.
One 68-year-old woman, Clara Oliva, is suing Ezricare after getting an eye infection from its artificial tears. In the lawsuit, she says the infection led to doctors having to surgically remove her right eye, and she's now legally blind.
"She's a grandmother, she's a mother of two and these are supposed to be her golden years, when she's enjoying life to the fullest and enjoying the fruits of her labor over the course of her life," Ryan Yaffa, Oliva's lawyer, told Scripps News.
The CDC is investigating 68 cases in 16 states from May 2022 to February 2023. Three people have died, eight have gone blind and four people have had to get their eyeballs surgically removed.
SEE MORE: 68 injuries, 4 eyeball removals tied to recalled EzriCare eye drops
The infections are caused by a bacteria called pseudomonas aeruginosa. It can be common in hospitals or from sleeping often in contact lenses.
The CDC says it's getting harder to treat the bacteria with antibiotics.
"That's one of the most severe organisms where once it gets into your eye, and within hours, it can penetrate inside your eye, penetrate into the blood vessels and get into the bloodstream," said Dr. Daniel Laroche, board-certified ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist.
The infections are primarily linked to Ezricare's artificial tears. The product is manufactured in India and doesn't have preservatives, making it easy for germs to grow.
The FDA has put an import alert on Global Pharma Healthcare, the company that makes the drops, citing problems with microbial testing and tamper proof packaging.
The FDA has also warned about a Global Pharma Healthcare dry eye ointment in late February. The company recalled both products.
In a statement, Global Pharma Healthcare said it is "notifying the brand owner/importer of this product, Delsam Pharma, and is requesting that wholesalers, retailers and customers who have the recalled product stop use."
SEE MORE: More eye drops recalled for lacking sterility
The CDC says the Ezricare artificial tears were most commonly used across four health care or hospital systems.
Experts tell Scripps News the cases are a stark reminder for anyone, from the health care industry to home:
"Wash your hands, and use a warm washcloth, wipe your eyelashes clean because that's what we have bacteria on, eyelashes and crusting that can be on the eyelashes there," Dr. Laroche said.
Meanwhile, Clara Oliva is waiting for her day in court. Her lawsuit includes the companies behind the tears, plus her health insurance and the hospital where she was given the drops.
If you own these particular drops, throw them away. And if you've used them recently, look out for eye discharge, redness, blurry vision, light sensitivity or eye pain. These are signs linked to this specific infection.
Call your eye doctor or 911 if you have an emergency.
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