Contact Lens Health Study Reveals Gross Trends

Why Your Contact Lenses Are Dirtier Than You Think They Are

Think you're the picture of health when it comes to contact lens cleaning and use?

We're not so sure we believe you.

A new study in the journal Optometry and Vision Science shows that just 2 percent of contact lens wearers actually follow all the rules when it comes to contact lens hygiene, while more than 80 percent of people believe that they follow good practices, NPR reported.

The biggest no-nos we commit are showering, swimming and sleeping while our contact lenses are still in, and using our contacts longer than we should before starting a fresh pair, NPR reported. Other contact lens sins include "topping off" the solution in the contact lens case instead of using fresh solution each day, and never or rarely replacing the lens case.

"This is particularly common with lenses approved for two-week use," Randall Fuerst, OD, a spokesman for the American Optometric Association, told WebMD. "People often use them for three weeks or even a month, which can cause problems."

In this new study, 72 percent of the surveyed contact lens wearers said they have experienced discomfort from their lenses and 47 percent reported having had an infection from their lenses, WebMD reported.

ABC News reported on the potential problems that can arise from not following proper hygiene:

Mild problems include conjunctivitis, an inflammation commonly known as "pink eye" that can be caused by a bacterial infection. Generally, a few days of eye drops and care can completely resolve this problem. On the other side of the spectrum are Acanthamoeba, pseudomonas and E. coli infections that have the potential to rob victims of their sight or even their entire eye.

"We see patients all the time with pseudomonas ulcers, gray green pus, they go blind," study researcher Dwight Cavanagh, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, told NPR. "We see amoeba infections from people showering in their contacts, going swimming in lakes. These infections are horrible."

To minimize the risk of these complications, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Contact Lens Association for Ophthalmologists, the Cornea Society and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery offer these tips:

- Always use soap and water to wash your hands and make sure your hands are dried with a lint-free towel before handling lenses.

- Try to avoid contact between your lenses and water (example: remove lenses before going swimming).

- Don't rinse or store lenses in just water, whether tap or sterile.

- Never wet your lenses with your saliva.

- Saline solution and rewetting drops are not meant to disinfect your contact lenses.

- Discard your old lenses and start a new pair when you are supposed to (based on the schedule given to you by your eye care professional).

- Properly clean and store your contact lenses.

- Rub your lenses with your fingers and then rinse them with solution, when cleaning your lenses (even if you have "no-rub" solution!).

- Rinse your contact lens case with solution, not water. Allow the case to air-dry.

- Replace your contact lens case every three months (at the very least!).

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