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Vast majority of contact lens wearers are risking blindness by ignoring hygiene rules like taking them out while sleeping, swimming or showering

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Almost all of the 41 million estimated contact lens wearers in the United States are at risk of blindness, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bad habits – such as topping up rather than replacing contact lens solution – can lead to potentially devastating eye infections like keratitis – inflammation of the cornea which can cause blindness.

Nearly one-third of contact lens wearers who participated in a national survey reported going to the doctor for red or painful eyes related to wearing contact lenses.

More than 99 percent of survey respondents reported at least one risky behavior. The majority of wearers reported:

  • More than half of wearers admitted they had slept overnight wearing their contacts while almost nine in 10 people had taken a nap with their lenses in.
  • Keeping their contact lens cases for longer than recommended (82.3 percent);
  • “Topping off” solution in the case—adding new solution to the existing solution instead of emptying the case out fully before adding new solution (55.1 percent);
  • Wearing their lenses while sleeping (50.2 percent).
  • More than eight in ten people admitted showering while wearing them and six in ten went swimming while still wearing contacts.
  • More than a third of people said they had rinsed their lenses under a tap while almost 17 per cent said they had soaked them in tap water overnight.

Although household tap water is safe for drinking, it is not sterile and contains bugs that can contaminate contacts and cause eye infections.

Each of these behaviors has been reported in previous studies to raise the risk of eye infections by five times or more.

Taken together, the survey results indicate that millions of Americans could be at risk for serious eye infections because of poor contact lens hygiene behaviors.

“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, ” says CDC Medical Epidemiologist Jennifer Cope, M.D., M.P.H. “We are finding that many wearers are unclear about how to properly wear and care for contact lenses.”

To prevent eye infections, contact lens wearers should:

  • Wash hands with soap and water and dry them well before touching contact lenses
  • Take contacts out before sleeping, 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 it upside down with the caps off after each use;
  • Replace contact lens cases at least once every three months;
  • Avoid “topping off” solution in lens case (adding fresh solution to old solution);
  • And,  Carry a backup pair of glasses in case contact lenses have to be taken out.

 

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