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Contact lens-related complications in austere conditions among military personnel: a systematic review
  1. Kunal Bhanot1,
  2. S Jefferys1,
  3. K Clipstone1,
  4. S Guest1 and
  5. R J Blanch1,2
  1. 1Research and Clinical Innovation, Defence Medical Services, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Neuroscience and Ophthalmology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to R J Blanch, Neuroscience and Ophthalnology, 2nd floor, Robert Aitken Institute of Clinical Reseach, off Mindelsohn Way, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK; blanchrj{at}


Introduction Military service personnel are required to deploy to austere environments where they are exposed to harsh conditions. Many service personnel continue to wear contact lenses when deployed as they are an effective alternative to spectacles by affording superior ergonomic functionality, although they are associated with significant complications. We aimed to explore the prevalence and type of contact lens-related complications among deployed service personnel worldwide.

Methods A systematic review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses 2020 statement. PubMed, Medline, CINAHL and EMBASE databases were searched for relevant articles published between 1950 and 2023. The keywords ‘contact lens’ and ‘military’ or ‘army’ or ‘navy’ or ‘air force’ and ‘austere’ or ‘deployed’ or ‘adverse’ were used.

Results Five eligible articles were included. Excluded articles reported contact lens wear in the firm base, were not related to military personnel or did not involve the deployed setting. Major complications associated with contact lens wear included microbial keratitis and contact lens-related discomfort. Excluding case reports, the overall incidence of contact lens-related complications ranged from 0.35% to 25.4%. The three case reports included in this systematic review described Acanthamoeba keratitis, Nocardia keratitis and contact lens-related discomfort as significant complications. These case reports also detailed time to initial presentation and type of contact lens worn when complications were encountered. Types of deployed conditions service personnel were exposed to included desert, temperate and underwater environments.

Conclusions We highlight a scarcity of recent data regarding contact lens-related complications in the deployed setting. While contact lens-wearing service personnel are at risk of infectious keratitis and contact lens-related discomfort, we recommend good-quality data collection on contact lens wearing schedules and complication rates to steer guidance on contact lens wear in service personnel.

  • ophthalmology
  • corneal and external diseases
  • ophthalmology

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.

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  • Contributors KB, SJ and RJB were involved in the design of this systematic review and the screening of articles. KB, SJ, KC, SG and RJB contributed towards the write-up. RJB is responsible for the overall content and is the guarantor of this paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.