More than 6 in 7 adolescents (85 percent) who wear contact lenses report at least one habit that increases the chance of an eye infection, according to a report published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Eye infections can lead to serious problems, including blindness. All contact lens wearers can help prevent serious eye infections by correctly wearing and caring for their contact lenses.
These are the first CDC data on the wear and care habits of the estimated 3 million U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 17 years who use contact lenses. CDC is releasing these new data to coincide with Contact Lens Health Week, August 21-25. The awareness week promotes healthy wear and care practices to help contact lens wearers reduce their chances of getting an eye infection.
“Contact lenses are a safe and effective way to correct your vision when they are worn and cared for as recommended,” said Jennifer Cope, M.D., M.P.H., medical epidemiologist in CDC’s Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch. “However, adolescents and adults can improve the way they take care of their contact lenses to reduce their risk of serious eye infections.”
What risks are people taking?
The new CDC report found:
Eighty-five percent of adolescents (ages 12-17), 81 percent of young adults (ages 18-24), and 87 percent of adults (ages 25 and older) reported a habit that increases their chance of an eye infection and could threaten their vision.
Adolescents most frequently reported these risky habits:
Not visiting an eye doctor at least once a year (44 percent)
Sleeping or napping while wearing lenses (30 percent)
Swimming while wearing lenses (27 percent)
The most frequently reported risky habits among young adults and adults were:
Not replacing lenses as often as prescribed (52 and 45 percent, respectively)
Not regularly replacing storage cases (41 and 42 percent)
Sleeping while wearing lenses (33 and 33 percent)
Swimming while wearing lenses (28 and 33 percent)
Preventing eye infections
Wearing contact lenses can increase your chances of getting a severe eye infection caused by germs commonly found in water. It is important for people who wear contact lenses to properly clean their lenses and regularly visit an eye care provider to keep their eyes healthy. CDC encourages parents of adolescents to promote healthy habits so their children can develop and maintain these healthy behaviors as young adults and adults.
Replace your contact lens case regularly. Germs are more likely to get on the case when they are not replaced regularly. This leads to more complications and eye problems.
Don’t sleep or nap while wearing contact lenses. Sleeping in contact lenses increases the chance of an eye infection by 6 to 8 times.
Don’t swim or shower while wearing contact lenses. Contact lenses can carry germs from the water into the eye.
Editor’s note: Watch the real stories of three people who got eye infections from improperly wearing and caring for their contact lenses: https://www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/videos.html.
CDC is hosting a Twitter chat on contact lens health and safety at noon EDT, Tuesday, August 22, and a Reddit Science “Ask me Anything” forum at 1 pm EDT, Thursday, August 24.