While more than 1 in 10 people in the United States wear contact lenses to correct their vision, 40% to 90% of patients are not adhering to proper contact lens hygiene practices.Contact lenses are a safe and effective way to correct vision problems, but such high rates of misuse lead to increased risk for infection, and poor eye health, according to a statement released by the American Optometric Association (AOA). The association is partnering with the CDC during the 5th annual Contact Lens Health Week, August 20-24, to inform patients about hygenic risks and pratices.1 

"Improper wear and care for contact lenses, illegal sales, and even use of noncorrective decorative contact lenses can all be dangerous practices that could put eye health at risk," said Samuel Pierce, OD, AOA President, in a prepared statement. "It's extremely important that patients get routine eye exams and only wear contact lenses that are prescribed by an eye doctor. They can help patients better understand how to obtain the full benefits of contact lenses and reduce the chances of developing complications."1

Improper contact lens use can result in rare, yet serious, infections. Contact lens related issues are typically preventable, however, with proper care.  The CDC notes some unhealthy care techniques that may negatively impact eye health involve sleeping with lenses in, swimming with lenses in, and using lenses or storage cases for too long without replacing them.2

Sleeping overnight or napping with lenses in is reported as a frequent habit by 1/3 of contact lens wearers, according to the CDC. Wearing lenses while sleeping also increases the risk of infection 6 to 8 times, compared to removing contact lenses when sleeping. While wearing contacts to sleep may not seem like a huge deal to some, serious infections that can result in blindness affects 1 out of 500 lens wearers each year. Other infections that may not be as serious can still result in pain and interference in one’s daily life, according to the CDC.1

Contact lenses are considered medical devices by the FDA, and therefore require a fitting and prescription from a doctor of optometry. Decorative lenses used for cosmetic purposes also require a prescription. Purchasing them from novelty shops or online vendors can lead to a heightened risk of bacterial infection, allergic reactions, and in some cases, severe damage to vision, according to the report.1

The AOA recommends that all lens wearers practice the following care methods: wash and dry hands before touching contacts; clean contacts regularly by rubbing them with fingers and rinsing them; soak lenses overnight in solution; store lenses in a proper lens case that is replaced every 3 months; use optometrist recommended cleaning products only; avoid reusing old solution to clean lenses; follow the replacement schedule recommended by one’s optometrist; remove lenses before entering a swimming pool or hot tub; do not use expired prescriptions or stock up on lenses before the prescription expires; and lastly, visit an optometrist for routine contact lens check-ups.1

Contact lens use can create an increased risk for eye infection, but the good news is that proper lens care can typically prevent any serious risk, according to the CDC.2


References
  1. Improper Contact Lens Use Associated with Increased Risk of Infections [news release]. St. Louis, MO; American Optometry Association: August 16, 2018. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/improper-contact-lens-use-associated-with-increased-risk-of-infections-300698485.html. Accessed August 20, 2018.
  2. Contact Lens Health Week—August 20-24, 2018. MMWR. CDC Website. August 17, 2018 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6732a1.htm. Accessed August 20, 2018.