Contact lenses can be a great way to improve your vision without having to wear glasses. However, not everyone takes the proper steps to limit the risk of eye infections when wearing contact lenses. According to one study, about 99 percent of the approximately 41 million American adults who wear contact lenses sometimes engage in behaviors that increase their risk of eye infections.
Behaviors That Increase Infection Risk
Behaviors that should be avoided include wearing contact lenses when sleeping or napping, using lenses longer than recommended, not replacing the lens storage case every three months, wearing contact lenses when swimming or showering and topping off disinfecting solution rather than fully replacing it after each use. It isn't a good idea to expose contact lenses to any water except the disinfecting solution specifically made for contact lens cleaning. Parasites in any other type of water could infect the eye.
Most Common Infections
The most common eye infection associated with contact lenses is keratitis, which is an infection of the cornea. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, eye parasites and fungi. Both conjunctivitis and pinkeye are also more likely to occur if you wear contacts and don't care for them properly. Fungal infections could cause blindness, and a type of bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa could cause a hole in your cornea that results in permanent vision loss. Severe cases of keratitis make it so a cornea transplant is needed to restore vision.
Signs of Infection
Signs of an eye infection include itching, pain, swelling, redness, eye goo or discharge, blurry vision, clouding of the eye's surface and light sensitivity. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop using your contact lenses but don't throw them away. Bring them with to the doctor appointment, as the doctor may be able to use them to help figure out what's causing the infection and what type of infection it is.
Tips for Preventing Eye Infections
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your eyes or contacts. Follow the package directions and those given by your eye doctor regarding how often to replace your contact lenses and your contact lens case. Never reuse contact lens solution -- dump out any extra and wash the case before adding new solution the next time you need to remove your contacts. Watch for any product recalls on lens cleaning solution, as in 2006 one type of solution was associated with fungal keratitis outbreaks around the world and was taken off the market.