“May the FORCE be with you!” There could not have been a better phrase to start the final European Force Contest. FORCE stands for Future Ocular Research Creativity Event, highlighting the power of innovation, creative ideas and dedication to learning which are part of the daily routine of every contact lens specialist. This was the main theme in Barcelona for the nine European finalists and their supervisors; interesting discussions, different approaches, creative experiments and completely different ideas as to how different clinical research can be realised. It was an event on the highest level! A huge compliment and acknowledgement to all the organisers and participants.
The 12th of April 2014 was characterised by high-class presentations from the best students at universities across Europe. So let me take you on a colourful trip across Europe…
The starting point will be in the east in Hungary. Henrietta Szabó from the Faculty of Health Science of Semmelweis University in Budapest looked at a very relevant theme; computer vision syndrome. In her study she surveyed the different influences of hydrogel and silicone hydrogel contact lenses on subjective comfort with daily wearing. She pointed out that SiHy materials implicitly ensure lower levels of discomfort than hydrogels and, in general, lid wiper frequency is increased with contact lenses compared to spectacles while working with computers. Additionally she asked her clients about their habits regarding daily duration of wear and cleaning techniques which provided lots of evidence for improving the communication between client and specialist.
The dry eye problems were also the theme in Tereza Ševčíková’s study from the Czech Republic. She presented the wide variety of dry eye symptoms and explained how the individual’s lifestyle affects the progress of an instable tear film, concluding with the importance of an early differential diagnosis being made by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Let’s go on and visit Daria Rajchel at the University of Poznań, in the neighbouring country of Poland, where she studied the interaction of Hyaluron with different contact lens materials. In her presentation she emphasised the unchartered correlation between materials and Hyaluron. She was able to prove a positive effect on water storage in hydrogel and SiHy materials, a fact which will surely occupy future trends in material research.
Another stop on our innovative trip through the European countries is in Germany at the Beuth University of Applied Science Berlin. Julia Hebenstreit and Andrea Reinke analysed the compatibility of centre distance and centre near multifocal contact lenses. They determined a clear preference of contact lens wearers for a centre distance design, showed the opposition of this result to the current contact lens market and gave an overview of the capabilities of this type of contact lens. In addition, they proved that neophytes need a longer time for their setting in period and that a successful contact lens fitting relies on the good optical correction of both eyes, not just the dominant one.
With a big step to the north we reach Julia Ahlin, a student of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Julia examined the effectiveness of CCLRU gradings as a way to help with consistent assessment of the anterior segment of the eye with different groups of contact lens specialists. She found it clear that grading with a photo is a great help in achieving an exact and consistent result, even for inexperienced contact lens specialists. This is an important basic consideration for fitting contact lenses.
Maybe the most exciting stopover on our trip is in a wind tunnel in Great Britain with Claire Gorman of the University of Plymouth. Also studying symptoms of dry eye with contact lenses, she analysed the different degree of drying of different contact lenses in variable time intervals with a wind speed of 18.64 mph.
Across the English Channel we reach France, where Célia Noir and Anouck Barbarin inform us about a higher level of comfort when wearing contact lenses because of lower friction of the eyelid during the day. Even if the contact lens specialist has no negative perceptions of a contact lens, there can be a discomfort reported by the wearer and they showed that lid pathologies of epithelium could be a possible reason.
Soraya de las Heras and Eduardo Garcia of the University Valladolid from Spain analysed the influence of multifocal contact lenses for myopia control and examined the optical imaging properties of different systems in relation to add powers.
The final stop on our trip across Europe is Italy. Everyone knows that dry eye symptoms can be enhanced by contact lenses or caused by a wrongly chosen material. This, and possibly the function of the meibomian glands, is one of the most common causes for contact lens prescription adjustment and is proven by the massive number of studies on the issue. Umberto Bassi examined in his research project the influence of material choice on patients with restricted secretion production. With a special infrared light illumination of the glands and different break-up tests, he was able to prove that biocompatible hydrogels are show a significant improvement of tear film stability and, consequentially, a highly increased level of comfort with the lens when compared to silicone hydrogels. His results show that drop-outs as a result of dry eye symptoms can be reduced by a more thorough consideration of material choice.
With his enterprising structure, scientifically defined results and very professional presentation, Umberto Bassi convinced the independent jury. He won the European competition and is FORCE Student of the Year 2014. This month he will travel to the American Academy of Optometry Clinical Conference in Denver, Colorado in the United States of America and report back to us his experiences.
Representing all the attendees at the European Force Contest, I am pleased to say thanks again for the awesome experience and very professional presentations. The weekend in Barcelona was, for every one of us, a very interesting event with lots of innovative ideas for our future as contact lens specialists. It was an honour to be part of it!
‘The FORCE was with us!’ Thanks a lot CooperVision!
Andrea Reinke, Berlin