If you are one of the almost 41 million Americans who wear contact lenses, are you following proper contact lens hygiene? If not, you could be putting your eyes at risk for infection. In fact, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost every contact lens wearer admits to at least one safety lapse that would increase their risk of eye infection.
This report’s data came from a nationwide survey of about 1,000 contact lens wearers over the age of 18. Ninety-nine percent of contact lens wearers admitted to “cutting corners” in contact lens hygiene. The most common habit was napping in contact lenses (87 percent). Over half of those surveyed admitted they had slept overnight in their contacts, 61 percent said they had gone swimming with their contacts, and 85 percent had showered in their contacts.
Bad habits in lens cleaning was another common pitfall. Participants admitted to topping off solution instead of replacing their contact solution every day. Possibly the most dangerous of all habits is rinsing contact lenses with tap water instead of sterile solution. The report disclosed, “Household tap water, although treated to be safe for drinking, is not sterile and contains microorganisms that can contaminate lens cases and contact lenses and cause eye infections.”
Here are some best practices for contact lens wearers:
- Discard used solution from the contact lens case and clean it with fresh solution every day—never use water.
- Remove contact lenses before showering or swimming, and keep contact lenses away from water.
- Store contact lens cases upside down with caps off after use.
- Replace contact lens case every three months.
- Never sleep in contact lenses unless advised by an eye care provider.
- Replace contact lenses as often as recommended by an eye care provider.
For many of us, we get lazy in our daily habits and need to be reminded of the consequences of not following proper hygiene. Daily choices of removing contacts at the proper time, replacing solution and cleaning cases every night will keep eyes safe from inflammation and infection.
CDC medical epidemiologist Jennifer Cope, M.D., M.P.H., said, “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” (Source: CBS News).
If you have further questions about how you can take better care of your contacts and protect your eyes, talk to your ophthalmologist.