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More than 40 million adults in the U.S. wear contact lenses — and more than 99 percent of them admit to having at least one contact lens hygiene habit that risks eye infection.
That’s according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in advance of the second annual Contact Lens Health Week next week.
The report reflects the findings of multiple surveys as well as the CDC’s investigations of several multistate outbreaks of serious eye infections among contact lens wearers over the past decade.
Every year, contact-lens complications such as Acanthamoeba keratitis (inflammation of the eye’s cornea) prompt nearly 1 million U.S. health care visits, the report continues. Their collective cost is $175 million.
A risky hygiene habit “of particular concern” to the CDC is exposing contact lenses to water, whether by storing or rinsing them in tap water or by showering or swimming while wearing lenses. All types of contact lens wearers admit to frequently exposing their lenses to water, according to the report, which continues:
Exposure of lenses to water raises the risk for infection because microorganisms living in water can be transferred to the eye. Even household tap water, although treated to be safe for drinking, is not sterile and contains microorganisms that can contaminate lens cases and contact lenses and cause eye infections.
Other habits that increase contact lens wearers’ risk of an eye infection include:
- Sleeping in contact lenses.
- Not following recommended lens and case replacement schedules. (“Infrequent replacement of contact lens cases has been linked to serious eye infections. Additionally, contact lens wearers who do not follow recommended contact lens replacement schedules have more complications and eye discomfort,” the report states.)
- Topping off solution that is already in the case (instead of emptying and cleaning the case before adding new solution).
The CDC’s numbers do not include anyone under the age of 18, but the agency notes that younger age is a predictor of more frequent complications.
To learn more about Contact Lens Health Week or contact lens wear and care, visit the CDC website.
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