It’s easy — too easy — to slip and become lax when it comes to caring for your contact lenses. It always seems like we’re on our best behavior right after visiting the eye doctor: we thoroughly rinse our contacts each night, take regular breaks from wearing them, and change them every two weeks. And then, a few months later, many of us find ourselves wearing the same pair of contacts week after week, using the cheapest and least effective cleansing solution (or even water) we can find, and even — gasp — sleeping in our contacts.
One of the most dangerous consequences of not properly caring for your contact lenses or the case they come in (which needs to be cleaned each day) is a condition called Keratitis. Microbial keratitis occurs when bacteria, fungi, amebae, and viruses get into the eye, often as a result of poor contact lens hygiene. And the condition is more widespread than you might think: an estimated 930,000 people are treated each year for keratitis in doctor’s offices and outpatient clinics, with an additional 58,000 cases diagnosed in hospital emergency rooms. Symptoms of keratitis include eye redness, pain, blurred vision, excessive tears/discharge, sensitivity to light, and a feeling like something is in your eye.
If left untreated, keratitis can lead to chronic corneal inflammation, corneal swelling and scarring, and (in extreme cases), blindness.
Of course, the best way to prevent keratitis and other health problems that can result from contact lens use is to take really good care of your lenses.
Never use water or saliva to cleanse lenses and don’t rely solely on saline or rewetting drops, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. While cleaning your lenses, rub them with your finger, then rinse lenses before soaking them in solution. The next step is important and often overlooked: your contact lens case needs to be thoroughly flushed with fresh solution after each wear and then left to dry completely before you use it again. And always, always replace your disposable lenses in a timely manner, whether that means two weeks or three months. Following these tips will help keep your eyes safe and allow you to wear your beloved contacts.
For more health tips, check out 5 Reasons you go gray in your 20s (or earlier) and The healthiest item you can order at McDonalds without feeling guilty