Contact lens wearers are putting themselves at risk of serious eye infections after neglecting basic hygiene rules, a study has shown.
Questioning 1,000 adults about their hygiene habits, the CDC found that 82% kept their contact lenses in for longer than recommended. Meanwhile, half of those surveyed reportedly slept in their lenses.
Health experts believe that doing this can raise the risk of eye infections by five times.
"Good vision contributes to overall wellbeing and independence for people of all ages, so it’s important not to cut corners on healthy contact lens wear and care," said medical epidemiologist for the CDC, Jennifer Cope.
"We are finding that many wearers are unclear about how to properly wear and care for contact lenses."
Worryingly, those who shower or swim with contact lenses in are at risk of going blind.
Bobby Qureshi, medical director and consultant ophthalmic surgeon at the London Eye Hospital tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle: "A serious risk is Acanthamoeba, a parasite that is found in water sources. Contact lenses should not be worn whilst showering or swimming and definitely should not be soaked in water.
"The parasite can gain entry to the eye which can lead to blindness if not treated quickly or effectively.
"It leads to serious corneal infections which can be prevented if the wearer has regular eye checks – something that is very important. The safest type of contact lenses to wear are daily disposable contact lenses as they are the lowest risk of infection as it is more hygienic to replace it daily."
Qureshi adds: "The main risks we see in contact lens wearers is when they sleep with them in or don’t clean them properly each day. It is essential that a good cleaning routine is in place.
"Always keep the lid on the case to avoid bacteria entering the solution and give them a good overnight soak - not just a couple of hours. This is to ensure any bacteria is killed. It’s also very important for wearers not to sleep with them in unless they are designed for this purpose, and not to over-wear them."
Meanwhile Dr Helen Webberley, the dedicated GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy, said: "Eye infections can be very nasty and I would thoroughly recommend the good hygiene practices outlined for anyone using foreign bodies or chemicals near or in the eye. However, when considering the research it is important that we measure this advice in terms of outcomes."
Dr Webberley added that in her experience, eye infections tend to be prevalent in young children - not necessarily contact lens wearers.
"While the study reveals that bad practice is widespread, there is no hard evidence that this is directly contributing to an increase in eye infections," she explained.
"In my surgery, for example, eye infections still tend to be most prevalent in children, with viral conjunctivitis associated with the common cold being the most typical. If bad practice in relation to contact lens wearing were causing infections, I would expect to see a lot more cases on a daily basis.
"In order to properly evaluate the risks and benefits of poor hygiene practices to contact lens users we would need a well-conducted prospective study."
According to the CDC, contact lens wearers can prevent eye infections by following seven simple rules:
- Wash hands with soap and water and dry them well before touching contact lenses
- Take contacts out before sleeping, showering or swimming
- Rub and rinse contacts in disinfecting solution each time they remove them
- Rub and rinse the case with contact lens solution, dry with a clean tissue and store it upside down with the caps off after each use
- Replace contact lens cases at least once every three months
- Avoid “topping off” solution in lens case (adding fresh solution to old solution)
- Carry a backup pair of glasses in case contact lenses have to be taken out