Many contact lens wearers are taking big risks with their eyes, according to a warning issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency reported a new study that shows that almost all of America’s 41 million estimated contact lens wearers have at least one habit that’s proven to increase the risk of eye infections.

Nearly a third of contact lens wearers who took part in a survey said they had been to the doctor at least once for eye pain or irritation as a result of contact lenses.

  • 82 percent kept contact lens cases longer than recommended. Experts say they should be replaced at least every 3 months.
  • 55 percent poured new contact lens solution into a bottle they had been using instead of completely using the solution before adding more.

Clean Up Your Contact Lens Habits

These tips will help you avoid eye irritation and infections, according to the CDC:

  • Before you touch your contact lenses, wash your hands well with soap and dry them with a clean cloth.
  • Unless your eye doctor has told you otherwise, don’t sleep in contact lenses.
  • Take them out before showering, getting in the pool, or in other situations when you’ll be in the water.
  • Use contact lens disinfecting solution—never water or saliva—to clean and rinse your contact lenses each time you remove them.
  • Talk to your doctor eye doctor about how often you should replace your contact lenses, and keep to the recommended schedule. Follow the replacement guideline for contact lens cases—every three months or when you get one with a new bottle of solution, whichever happens first.
  • When your contact lens case is not in use, clean it with contact lens solution, not water. Dry the case with a clean tissue and store upside down with the caps off until you need it again.
  • Do not mix new contact lens solution with a bottle you’ve been using. Completely use one bottle, then move on to the next.
  • Use the contact lens solution your doctor says is best for your contact lens type and eye health.
  • Schedule yearly appointments with your eye doctor, unless he or she recommends another schedule.
  • 50 percent wore contact lenses to sleep.

Each of these behaviors raises the risk of eye infections by five times or more, studies show.

Since 2006,  the U.S. has seen three outbreaks of parasitic/amoebic keratitis  and fungal keratitis —diseases that can cause blindness. These outbreaks spurred the CDC to work with experts in eye health and infectious disease to develop clear guidelines for contact lens hygiene.

Contact lens users aren’t solely to blame for their less-than-desirable habits. Some people haven’t been educated about proper lens use. For example, you may not know that there is no scientifically established rule for how often you lens case should be replaced. However, in the absence of a hard rule, experts recommend replacing your case whenever you purchase a bottle of solution that includes one, or every three months, whichever happens first.

You may not know that you should discuss which type of solution to use with your eye doctor. Your doctor can make a suggestion based on your personal medical history, and some types or brands of contacts require a particular solution. Finally, although several companies make contact lenses that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration to sleep in (called extended wear, continuous wear, or overnight wear), “contact lens wearers who choose this type of lens should be informed that sleeping in any type of contact lenses increases the risk of serious eye infections,” the CDC warns.

“Good vision contributes to overall well-being and independence for people of all ages, so it’s important not to cut corners on healthy contact lens wear and care,” says Jennifer Cope, MD, MPH, a CDC medical epidemiologist. “We are finding that many wearers are unclear about how to properly wear and care for contact lenses.”

References

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, Aug. 20). Nearly all contact lens wearers in national survey report risky eye care behaviors that can lead to eye infections.

Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0820-contact-lens.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, Jan. 22). Show me the science: Data behind contact lens wear and care recommendations.

Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/show-me-the-science.html

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