Let me tell you a story about my eyes. When I was 15, I begged my parents to get me contact lenses. I had worn glasses for a few years before deciding on contact lenses.
After all, like most teenagers I was self-conscious about my appearance. I thought I’d be more attractive if I wasn’t wearing eyeglasses. Wearing contact lenses seemed to help my self-esteem and overall confidence during my high school years.
And let’s not forget the most popular reason 15-year-old boys want to wear contacts: I wanted girls to like me. Essentially, I thought contact lenses made me look better. Many others wear contact lenses for a variety of practical reasons. Contact lenses tend to improve peripheral vision and they are also more comfortable than eyeglasses.
Most Contact Wearers Are Making Mistakes!
The problem with wearing contact lenses is I didn’t always take proper care of them. I was surprised to learn that I wasn’t the only one making mistakes with contact lenses.
In the U.S., there are an estimated 40.9 million people who wear contact lenses. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report that showed that nearly all American contact lens wearers, approximately 99%, are making at least one mistake when it comes to contact lens hygiene. Contact lens problems can increase the risk of serious eye infections or the development of inflammation.
For the CDC report, 1,141 contact lens wearers completed the Contact Lens Risk Survey. The survey uncovered some common contact lens mistakes that people make:
- At least 50% of people sleep with their contact lenses overnight.
- Approximately 50% reported using their contact lenses well past the recommended replacement date.
- Over 87% nap while wearing contact lenses.
- Around 55% avoid emptying and changing the disinfectant solution, and cleaning the contact lens case. Instead, they simply top off the solution.
- Nearly 82% fail to replace their contact lens cases at the recommended replacement date.
- Approximately 85% report showering with their contact lenses.
- Approximately 61% report swimming in their lenses.
- Almost a third (35.5%) of contact lens wearers rinse their lenses in tap water at some point while 16.8% store their lenses in tap water. Putting your lenses in contact with water increases the risk of an eye infection.
- Finally, among regular contact lens wearers, about 91% rinse their lenses in water, while 33.3% of the regular wearers store their lenses in tap water.
Health Risks Associated with Contact Lenses
I admit that I was guilty of quite a few of these offenses during my time wearing contacts. Unfortunately, my poor contact lens hygiene routines led to eye styes and bacterial eye infections—I stopped wearing my contacts last year.
According to the CDC, nearly a third of contact lens wearers have complained to their doctors about eye pain or redness as a result of wearing contact lenses. Here are a few more problems that can occur from poor contact lens hygiene:
- Eye infections: Poor contact lens hygiene can put your eyes at risk of inflammatory cornea infections, including a type of keratitis called microbial keratitis. It is a condition where amebae, viruses, and bacteria affect the cornea. According to a CDC report from 2014, 58,000 emergency department visits and 930,000 doctor’s office visits result every year from contact lens-related inflammatory disorders or keratitis.
- Contact lens parasites: Although it is very rare, there are also some cases where parasites can develop in the eye from overexposure of contact lenses. Some people have reported Acanthamoeba keratitis, which can lead to the loss of an eyeball.
- Blindness from poor contact use: Misuse of contact lenses can lead to long-term and potentially life-threatening cornea damage. Although it is rare, poor contact lens hygiene can lead to you going blind. The CDC estimates that serious eye infections can lead to blindness in one of every 500 contact lens wearers every year.
- Eye ulcers: Eye infections from improper contact lens hygiene can also lead to other serious health problems, such as corneal ulcers. The condition may develop from various eye infections, including Acanthamoeba keratitis, fungal keratitis, or herpes simplex keratitis.
How to Properly Take Care of Contact Lenses
Proper care of contact lenses is always important. The CDC recommends cleaning contact lenses with fresh disinfectant solution each day. The contact lenses should also be kept away from water, and the contact case should be changed every three months. Only wear your contact lenses up to eight hours a day, or follow the recommendation from your eye care professional. When you experience any eye pain or discomfort contact your eye care provider immediately. Here are a few important tips for proper contact lens care:
- Always be sure to wash and rinse hands before handling your contact lenses. Use a mild soap that will not irritate the eyes. Dry your hands with a clean towel.
- If you wear makeup, put it on after your contact lenses are in your eyes to avoid getting makeup on your lenses. Also, take out lenses before removing your makeup.
- It is always a good idea to use the recommended eye care products, such as eye drops, enzymatic cleaners, or disinfecting solution.
- Never put contact lenses in water. It can contain potentially dangerous microorganisms that can cause sight damage or infections.
- When cleaning your contact lenses, rub it gently with your index finger. Light rubbing can remove surface buildup on your contact lenses.
Should You Wear Contact Lenses?
Contact lenses are not for everyone. For instance, people with various conditions, such as dry eyes, severe allergies, and frequent eye infections should avoid wearing contacts. If you work in a dusty or dirty environment, such as a factory or construction site, then you should avoid wearing contacts.
Natural Remedies for Eye Health
Here are some natural remedies that can improve your overall eyesight:
- Consume a nutrient-rich diet: A nutrient-rich diet is very important for eye health. Some important foods that improve eyesight include carrots, sweet potatoes, blueberries, broccoli, apricots, eggs, bell peppers, and dark leafy greens like spinach or kale.
- Key supplements: Key nutrients that assist with vision health include vitamin A and beta-carotene, vitamin C and bioflavonoids, vitamin D3, vitamin E, and B vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B5, B12, folic acid, choline, and biotin. Lutein, zeaxathin, and omega-3 fatty acids are also important for improving eyesight.
- Herbal remedies: Effective herbs that improve eye health include ginkgo biloba, coleus, green tea, bilberry, black currant, garlic, and turmeric.
- Homeopathic remedies: Helpful homeopathic remedies include natrum muriaticum, pulsatilla, euphrasia, staphysagria, ruta, silicea, and agaricus.
- Important eye exercises: For people regularly in front of computers, it can help improve vision by gently massaging your eyebrows. You can also gently roll your thumb along your eye socket to improve the circulation around the eyes. Do the exercise every three or four hours to improve eye health.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Cope, J.R., et al., “Contact Lens Wearer Demographics and Risk Behaviors for Contact Lens-Related Eye Infections—United States, 2014,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 2015, 64(32); 865-870.
Collier, S.A., et al., “Estimated Burden of Keratitis – United States, 2010,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 2014, 63(45); 1027-1030.
Jegtvig, S., et al., “How to Choose Eye and Vision Supplements,” All About Vision web site; http://www.allaboutvision.com/nutrition/supplements.htm, last accessed August 27, 2015.
White, L.B., “9 Herbs for Healthy Eyes,” Mother Earth Living web site; http://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/ask-the-herbalist-herbs-for-healthy-eyes.aspx?PageId=2, last accessed August 27, 2015.
“Healthy Contact Lens Wear and Care,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site; http://www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/fast-facts.html, last accessed August 27, 2015.
Caba, J., “Contact Lens Wearers Beware: 5 Things That Can Go Horribly Wrong Without The Proper Care,” Medical Daily web site, August 7, 2014; http://www.medicaldaily.com/contact-lens-wearers-beware-5-things-can-go-horribly-wrong-without-proper-care-296940.
“Caring for Your Contact Lenses and Your Eyes,” WebMD web site; http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/caring-contact-lens, last accessed August 27, 2015.
“Contact Lenses,” Kellogg Eye Center web site; http://www.kellogg.umich.edu/patientcare/conditions/contact.lenses.html, last accessed August 27, 2015.