With proper care, contact lenses are a safe and effective way to correct vision problems. They are currently used by more than 30 million people in the U.S.
Most people who wear contact lenses, however, may be using sterilization and wearing techniques that put them at risk for eye infections. A 2015 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 99 percent of their respondents engaged in at least one risky behavior that could lead to eye problems. One-third of the participants reported going to their doctors because their eyes were red and painful from wearing contacts.
The most common causes of problems are:
. Keeping the cases for their contact lenses longer than recommended.
. Adding new solution to existing solution in the contact lens case instead of emptying out the case fully and adding new solution.
. Wearing contacts while sleeping.
These behaviors raise the risk of eye infections by five times or more. There are several signs that you may have an eye infection that requires medical care.
See a doctor if you have:
. Red, irritated eyes
. Increasing pain in or around your eyes
. Are sensitive to light
. Sudden blurry vision
. Unusual eye discharge
. Watery eyes
There are several ways that contact lens users can reduce the risk of developing eye infections:
. Read the instructions carefully on the use of disinfecting or cleaning solutions for contacts.
. Do not store contact lenses in water. Most water contains germs. If water touches your contacts, throw them away or disinfect them by soaking them overnight in disinfecting solution before wearing them again.
. Wash your hands with soap and water, and then dry them well before handling contact lenses.
. Take out contacts when showering, hot-tubbing, or swimming. Water can cause soft contact lenses to change their shape, swell, and stick to the eye, making it easier for germs to enter the eye and cause infection. This state could also scratch the cornea.
. Do not sleep with contact lenses unless a doctor recommends it.
. Rub contacts and rinse them with disinfection solutions after using.
. Rub and rinse the case with contact lens solution, dry it with a clean tissue, and store the case upside down with the caps off after each use.
. Contact lens cases should be replaced every three months.
. Do not top off old solution in the case with fresh solution.
. Always carry a backup pair of glasses in case contact lenses need to be removed.
Following these steps will significantly reduce the risk of eye infections and irritations.