Nov 14, 2014 1:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell

Contact lenses help millions of people see better in the United States. They can also lead to serious eye problems if not used or maintained correctly. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that close to one million people visit doctors and emergency rooms due to keratitis, or an infection of the cornea, and that often those infections are caused by improper use of contact lenses. “Contact lenses are appealing because of their ease and convenience,” says Jeff Pettey, MD, an ophthalmologist with University of Utah Health’s Moran Eye Center. “But that ease can make it easy to take them for granted and not take care of them. That’s when problems develop.”

Keratitis occurs when germs come in contact with the cornea, irritating it. That’s why it is important to have anything that comes in contact with the cornea to be as sterile as possible. “As time goes on, germs collect on contact lenses,” says Pettey. “When you wear them too long the chance those germs will reach a dangerous level is more likely.” Germs can also develop when the lenses aren’t properly cared for. “You need to be sure that when you are cleaning your lenses, you are really cleaning them,” says Pettey. “Use a disinfecting solution when you take them out, and make sure they are stored in a clean case with fresh saline solution. Oh, and make sure when you handle your contacts you are doing so with clean hands.”

November is 17-21 is Contact Lens Health Week. This is the perfect time to reassess how you wear your contact lenses, and assess the risks you may be taking. “Keratitis is easily treated,” says Pettey, “But any time that you have an infection in your eye, you are risking your vision.” 

Libby Mitchell

Libby Mitchell is the Social Media Coordinator for University of Utah Health Care. Follow her on Twitter @UUHCLibby.

contact lenses vision keratitis blindness

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