An estimated 45 million Americans wear contacts. Although contact lenses have come a long way and are generally pretty safe to wear, there’s still a risk of eye infection and permanent eye damage if you fail to follow the proper guidelines when caring for them.
Benefits of contact lens
There are many benefits to using contact lenses according to the CDC:
- Contact lenses can help people see better without affecting their appearance or interfering with many sports and activities.
- Some children and teens report feeling dramatically better about their appearance when wearing contact lenses.
- Compared to wearing glasses, children switching to contact lenses reported significant improvements in the areas of perceived appearance, participation in activities, and satisfaction with vision correction.
- Specially designed contact lenses can improve the ability to focus and temporarily reduce poor distance vision (near-sightedness) in certain contact lens wearers.
Complications & risk factors
Despite the benefits, between 40 to 90 percent of contact lens wearers don’t properly follow the care instructions, which can lead to outbreaks of serious eye infections, the CDC notes.
According to a study, approximately 99 percent of respondents reported having at least one contact lens hygiene behavior such as improper cleaning or irregular replacement of contact lenses and contact lens cases that led to an increased risk of eye infection or inflammation.
Improper use of contact lens can also lead to keratitis, a painful eye infection that causes inflammation of the cornea. This has led to 1 million doctor and hospital visits annually at a cost of $175 million to the US healthcare system, according to the CDC.
The symptoms of keratitis include:
- Eye redness
- Eye pain
- Excess tears or other discharge from your eye
- Difficulty opening your eyelid because of pain or irritation
- Blurred vision
- Decreased vision
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- A feeling that something is in your eye
If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor. When taken seriously and treated right away, mild to moderate cases of keratitis can usually be effectively treated without loss of vision. However, if you leave it untreated,