US government report says sloppy care of contact lenses is a main reason for hundreds of thousands of eye infections each year.
Keratitis, an infection of the cornea, causes pain and inflammation and can lead to blindness in severe cases. Wearing contact lenses is the largest single risk factor for developing the infection. Keratitis occurs when germs invade the cornea, the clear dome that covers the colored part of the eye.
The infection is most likely to occur when contact lenses are worn too long or are not cared for correctly. Wearing contact lenses overnight, not cleaning and replacing storage cases frequently and exposing contact lenses to water are some of the key behaviors that increased the risk for keratitis.
“Being able to see well is vitally important to performing everyday activities for most people. Contact lenses can provide many benefits, but they are not risk-free, especially if contact lens wearers take shortcuts and don’t take care of their contact lenses and supplies. Healthy habits mean healthy eyes,” said CDC Medical Epidemiologist Jennifer Cope, M.D., M.P.H.
When patients seek care quickly, most complications of keratitis can be easily treated by an eye doctor. More serious infections can cause pain and lead to vision loss, depending on what germs caused the infection and how long the patient waits to go to the doctor.
To prevent eye infections, contact lens wearers should:
Wash hands with soap and water and dry well before touching contact lenses;
Take contacts out before bed, showering or swimming;
Rub and rinse contacts in disinfecting solution each time they remove them;
Rub and rinse the case with contact lens solution, dry with a clean tissue and store upside down with the caps of after each use;
Replace contact lens cases at least once every three months;
Do not “top off” solution in lens case; and
Carry a backup pair of glasses in case contact lenses have to be taken out.