Newspaper article MinnPost.com

99% of Contact Lens Wearers Put Themselves at Risk of Eye Infections, CDC Study Finds

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

99% of Contact Lens Wearers Put Themselves at Risk of Eye Infections, CDC Study Finds

Article excerpt

Almost all of the estimated 41 million Americans who wear contact lenses engage in some kind of lens-related behavior that increases the risk of an eye infection, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Those safety lapses help explain why a third of the contact-lens wearers surveyed by the CDC for the report said they had sought medical care at some time in the past for red or painful eyes.

Each year, nearly 1 million Americans receive treatment for keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) or other type of contact- lens complication, at a cost of $175 million.

Keratitis infections, which can be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses or a single-cell organism called acanthamoeba, are particularly worrisome. If left untreated, these infections can become so severe that they lead to a loss of vision.

Risky behaviors

The CDC survey involved about 1,000 contact lens wearers from across the country. Most were women (82 percent) and aged 40 or older (62 percent). About 93 percent of the respondents said they wore soft contact lens, which are made from a flexible plastic that permits oxygen to flow through to the cornea.

Of the people surveyed, 99 percent acknowledged at least one risky lens-related behavior.

The most common breach of hygiene: sleeping in the lenses. More than 87 percent of the survey's respondents said they sometimes napped without removing their lenses, and half said they have slept overnight with the lenses still in. Although certain soft (and rigid) contact lenses have been approved for overnight wear, sleeping in any type of lens can increase the risk of eye infections, according to the CDC.

Exposing the lenses to water was another common hygiene lapse identified in the survey. Almost 85 percent of the respondents said they showered with their contact lenses in, and 61 percent said they swam with them in. In addition, 35 percent said they sometimes rinsed their lenses in tap water rather than in a disinfecting solution, and almost 17 percent said they sometimes stored their lenses in tap water. …

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