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Safety Tips Every Contact Lens Wearer Should Know

Posted on by Jennifer Cope, MD, MPH, Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases

close up of a woman putting contact lens in her eye

Are you one of the 45 million people in the United States who wear contact lenses to correct your vision? Eye infections related to improper contact lens wear and care are serious and can lead to long-lasting damage, but they are often preventable.Six out of seven adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 who wear contact lenses report at least one habit that increases their chances of an eye infection, including: • Not visiting an eye doctor at least once a year • Sleeping or napping while wearing contact lenses • Swimming while wearing contact lenses Parents of adolescents can model and encourage healthy contact lens wear and care habits so their children can develop and maintain healthy behaviors as young adults and adults.

This year, in observance of Contact Lens Health Week, you can learn the science behind some of the important contact lens wear and care recommendations:

Replace your contact lens case regularly.

A significant number of people who wear contact lenses report not replacing their lens case regularly. Even when cleaned properly (by rubbing and rinsing the case with disinfecting solution), contact lens cases can become contaminated over time with germs that can cause infections when they come into contact with your eyes.

Don’t sleep or nap in your contact lenses.

Sleeping while wearing contact lenses increases the risk of eye infection by 68 times. Out of every 10,000 people who sleep in their contact lenses overnight, 1820 every year will get an infection of microbial keratitis. This disease causes inflammation of the cornea (the clear dome that covers the colored part of the eye), which, in the worse cases, can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness.

Whitney, Te’, and Ryan tell their personal stories about how their eye infections affected their lives, and how they changed the way they wear and care for contact lenses.
Whitney, Te’, and Ryan tell their personal stories about how their eye infections affected their lives, and how they changed the way they wear and care for contact lenses.

Don’t swim or shower in your contact lenses.

The germs found in water can stick to contact lenses and infect your eyes. Wearing contact lenses can put you at increased risk for Acanthamoeba keratitis, a severe type of eye infection caused by a free-living ameba commonly found in water. These infections can be difficult to treat and extremely painful, and in the worst cases they can cause blindness.

Wash your hands with soap and water before touching your contact lenses.

Germs from your hands can be transferred to your contact lenses and the lens case. Some germs that cause eye infections are found in the water, so it is particularly important that you dry your hands before touching your contact lenses. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry them every time you put in and remove your contact lenses.

Visit your eye doctor every year.

Don't overlook healthy contact lens wear and care.Wearing contact lenses increases your risk for eye infections and complications. Therefore, it is important for you to have a yearly eye exam if you wear contact lenses. Sometimes eye doctors may recommend that their patients have more frequent eye exams.

The week of August 21–25, 2017, marks the fourth annual Contact Lens Health Week. This year’s theme, “Healthy habits mean healthy eyes,” will promote healthy contact lens wear and care practices.

Learn more

 Dr. Jennifer Cope is a medical epidemiologist and infectious disease physician at the CDC in the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch. Dr. Cope oversees the free-living ameba program, and supports epidemiologic, laboratory, and communication activities related to free-living ameba infections. She also works with the CDC Healthy Contact Lens Program to raise awareness of contact-lens-related eye infections and the healthy habits that can reduce your chances of getting an eye infection.

Posted on by Jennifer Cope, MD, MPH, Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental DiseasesTags , , , , , , ,

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