The Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the CDC reported in November 2014 that there are almost one million doctor visits each year in the United States due to eye infections. The CDC estimated that Americans visited doctor’s offices and outpatient clinics 930,000 times and emergency rooms 58,000 times for eye infections or keratitis.
There were two important conclusions after this study. The first was that wearing contact lenses is the largest single risk factor for developing the infection and the second was that women were slightly more likely to be affected.
If you wear contacts lenses every day or even occasionally, and you don’t want to become part of the statistics, then read further and learn how to avoid eye infections.
The Dangers of Keratitis
Keratitis is an inflammation or irritation of the cornea which is the clear covering of your iris and pupil. You can develop an inflammation or infection in your eye through bacteria coming in contact with your cornea. It can be a mild to moderate inflammation that is easily treated by an eye doctor, however if it is left untreated it can become vision threatening. Although there are various types of keratitis like those caused by the chickenpox virus, we will concentrate on bacterial keratitis and how it relates to contact lens wear.
If you develop keratitis, you may experience pain, sensitivity to light, redness, a discharge, or blurred vision. A serious bacterial keratitis develops quickly so it is important to remove your contacts immediately if you develop any of these symptoms. If they do not subside, then make an appointment to see an eye care specialist as soon as possible.
You can be at risk to develop keratitis if you recently suffered an eye injury or if you have a weak immune system. For those wearing contacts your risk especially increases if you wear your contact lenses overnight and do not clean or store them properly.
Dr. Jennifer Cope, M.D. a Medical Epidemiologist at the CDC is quoted in the November report: “Healthy habits mean healthy eyes.” These words covey the basis for avoiding eye infections. There are certain healthy habits for contact lens wearers to adopt if they want to make sure their eyes remain healthy.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and then dry them before handling your contact lenses, including inserting them and removing them.
- Follow your eye doctor’s recommendations for care of your contacts and when to replace them.
- Always remove your contacts at night unless you are wearing disposable wear contacts lenses.
- Avoid getting water on your contacts while in the shower and always remove them before swimming or entering a hot tub.
- Never mix contact lens solutions, sometimes called topping off.
- Only use the prescribed contact lens solutions to clean and disinfect your lenses.
- Always rub and rinse your contact lenses with the lens solution even if using a so called no rub solution.
- Store your contacts in a clean case with fresh disinfecting solution.
- Never use a saline or rewetting solution to store your contacts or clean your lenses.
- Clean and air dry your contact lens case after you remove your contact lenses.
- Fill your contact lens case with fresh solution before storing them for the night.
Women and Keratitis
As the CDC study reported, women seem to be more prone to developing keratitis and therefore more likely to require that trip to the doctor or emergency room. That may have something to do with the fact that many women apply various types of makeup around their eyes. There are consequently more opportunities to scratch their cornea with a pencil or mascara wand or use contaminated brushes and eyeliners near their eyes. In addition if they are negligent and do not remove all their makeup each night, that bacteria will accumulates in and around their eyes and the risk of infection increases.
Therefore, for women who wear eye makeup and also wear contact lenses, there is a greater opportunity for bacteria to get into our eyes and cause inflammation and infection. That obvious relationship between wearing eye makeup and also wearing contact lenses should alert women to follow those healthy habits including taking special care not allow any traces of makeup to get into your eyes and certainly all makeup should all be carefully removed each night.
Your healthy habits are your defense against eye infections. If you or someone you know has questions about proper contact lens care, or needs an appointment for glasses or new contacts, please contact the eye specialists at Buda Vision Source.