While contact lenses are a convenient alternative to glasses, they can also present serious health problems if used improperly. In a first-of-its-kind study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that United States’ residents make nearly a million visits to the doctor for eye infections each year. The study analyzed three national databases of outpatient care centers and emergency rooms, and estimated there are at least 930,000 visits to doctor’s offices and 58,000 emergency room visits for eye infections each and every year.
From Keratitis to other types of painful eye infections, here’s more information about how improper contact lens care, insertion, and removal, can send you to the ER.
Unless your contact lenses are approved for continuous, overnight wear, you should avoid falling asleep with your contact lenses still in your eyes. According to experts, those who wear contact lenses overnight are more than 20 times more likely to get Keratitis, an infection of the cornea that causes pain and inflammation and can lead to blindness in severe cases. While doctors can easily treat the infection, there can be more serious health consequences depending on how early Keratitis is diagnosed and what type of bacteria is causing it. If you’re unsure about whether or not your lenses can be worn overnight, it’s best to speak with your eye care provider.
Cleaning Lenses with Water
Many contact lens wearers aren’t aware that they shouldn’t wash or rinse their contact lenses in water. Water can cause the lenses to swell, change shape, and stick to the eye. According to the CDC, if lenses are rinsed in water they’re more likely to scratch the cornea, giving germs easy access to your eye where they can cause infections and irritation. Not only should contact lenses never be worn while swimming, showering, or in a hot tub, but contact lens cases should never be washed in water. When it comes time to wash and clean your lens cases, wash them with fresh contact lens solution, wipe it down, and let it air dry completely while upside down.
Using Old Solution
When it comes to contact lens solution, it should be changed each and every single day of the week, whether you’re inserting or removing the lenses or not. While you may think there’s no harm in adding new solution to old solution, this actually causes the disinfectant to lose its effectiveness. Although it may seem like a hassle, experts recommend rinsing out your lens case with fresh solution and letting it air dry every single day. If you don’t, a layer of biofilm will build up on the bottom of your lens case. Biofilm, or a group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other on a surface, can put your eyes at risk for infections, including Keratitis.
Not Washing Your Hands
While it may seem obvious, many contact lens wearers do not wash their hands before inserting lenses, removing lenses, or otherwise touching their eyes. When you touch your eyes with unwashed hands, you risk exposing them to harmful bacteria on your fingertips. In order to keep your lenses sanitary, professionals recommend that contact lens wearers wash their hands with soap and water before and after touching their lenses. If your lenses are excessively painful and irritating, don’t hesitate to call your eye care provider. Keratitis and most other eye infections are relatively easy to treat, but can become more problematic as time goes on.