Almost all contact lens wearers report risky eye care behaviors that can lead to eye infections, according to a recently released study.
The Centers for Disease Control, along with health groups such as the American Optometric Association, studied behaviors of U.S. contact lens wearers. It found that 99 percent of the almost 41 million estimated contact lens wearers in the United States aren’t following correct instructions on how to wear, clean, disinfect and store their contact lenses.
In addition, nearly one-third reported visiting the doctor because of red or painful eyes related to wearing contact lenses.
The CDC has investigated several multistate outbreaks of serious eye infections among contact lens wearers in the last 10 years. Nearly 1 million U.S. health care visits for keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) or contact lens complications occur annually, at a cost of $175 million. The largest single risk factor is contact lens wear, and each investigation identified frequent contact lens hygiene-related risk behaviors among patients.
A population-based survey was used to estimate the number of adult contact lens wearers, and a separate online survey of contact lens wearers assessed hygiene-related risk behaviors.
Dr. Steve Compton, an optometrist in Franklin, said a large concern from this study is that contact lens wearers frequently reported exposing their contact lenses to water, including storing or rinsing their lenses in tap water and showering or swimming while wearing lenses.
“Exposure of lenses to water raises the risk for infection because microorganisms living in water can be transferred to the eye,” said Compton, who is also president of the Kentucky Optometric Foundation. “Although tap water is treated and safe for drinking, it is not sterile and contains microorganisms that can contaminate lens cases and contact lenses, which can cause eye infections.”
The Kentucky Optometric Association offers the following recommendations:
*Wear contact lenses only if they are fitted and prescribed by an eye doctor.
*Always wash your hands before handling contact lenses.
*Carefully and regularly clean contact lenses, as directed by your optometrist. Rub the contact lenses with fingers and rinse thoroughly before soaking lenses overnight in sufficient multi-purpose solution to completely cover the lens.
*Store lenses in the proper lens storage case and replace the case at a minimum of every three months. Clean the case after each use, and keep it open and dry between cleanings.
*Use only products recommended by your optometrist to clean and disinfect your lenses. Saline solution and rewetting drops are not designed to disinfect lenses.
*Only fresh solution should be used to clean and store contact lenses. Never re-use old solution. Contact lens solution must be changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, even if the lenses are not used daily.
*Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule prescribed by your optometrist.
*Remove contact lenses before swimming or entering a hot tub.
*Never sleep while wearing contact lenses unless they are extended-wear lenses specifically designed for that purpose.
To find a doctor of optometry near you, visit www.kyeyes.org.