I am an occasional contact lens wearer, but my friends live in their disposable lenses. Working in an optometrist’s office, I hear far too many horror stories about patients over wearing their lenses, failing to clean them, cleaning them with tap water/spit/any liquid they can find, and other horrifying events. Don’t worry, if I just described your ritual or “that one time,” you’re not alone.
A recent survey in the United Kingdom by Bausch + Lomb indicated that people have turned to beer, baby oil, Coke, petroleum jelly, lemonade, fruit juice, and butter as oh-so-wrong alternatives to contact lens solution. I certainly laughed at this finding, wondering who in their right mind thought those liquids were good ideas. However, this is no laughing matter. Failure to properly clean your lenses can cause infections, ulcers, corneal injuries and blindness.
NPR’s health blog, Shots, recently posted an article citing info about eye infections caused by contact lenses. Despite the rarity of infection, don’t be deterred. It can happen to you too.
“Eye infections caused by contact lenses are relatively rare; the risk ranges from 1 in 7,500 for hard-lens wearers to 1 in 500 for people who sleep in daily wear lenses. But multiply that by the 40 million people who put lenses in their eyes every day and you can see why a corneal surgeon [or optometrist] who has to try to fix the damage, gets agitated.”
Let’s instill the fear. The article also cited a corneal surgeon, saying that he sees “amoeba infections from people showering in their contacts, going swimming in lakes. These infections are horrible.”
The moral of the story is clean your contacts properly. Don’t over wear them or “forget” to clean them every day. It’s almost a new year, so maybe a good resolution is to develop better contact lens wearing habits. If you need a refresher, there’s a great YouTube video that teaches you all about contact lens etiquette and hygiene here.