Dec. 9, 2014—Eye infections are responsible for at least a million doctor visits every year in the United States, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed. The culprit? Most of those infections are related to improper care and use of contact lenses.
Researchers reported that, in 2010, Americans made an estimated 930,000 trips to doctors’ offices and another 58,000 to outpatient clinics and emergency rooms because of an eye infection called keratitis. It occurs when bacteria and other germs invade the cornea—the clear dome that covers the colored part of the eye.
About the study
For the study, researchers analyzed national databases of visits to doctors’ offices, outpatient clinics and emergency rooms. That data allowed them to estimate—for the first time—how widespread keratitis is nationwide.
Most people developed keratitis after using or storing contact lenses improperly—for example, when they wear their contacts overnight or don’t replace storage cases often enough.
Their research also revealed that:
- Women were slightly more prone to keratitis than men were.
- Keratitis occurs in relatively equal percentages across all age groups.
In severe cases, this painful infection can cause vision loss or blindness. But when treated early, most cases can be easily managed without the risk of serious complications, CDC reported. Along with eye pain, symptoms include eye redness, tearing, swelling around the eye, blurry vision, sensitivity to light and a feeling that something is in the eye.
The study appeared in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
|The take-home message|
|If you’re one of the roughly 38 million Americans who wear contact lenses, you can protect yourself from keratitis by following these tips from CDC and the Academy of Ophthalmology.
When handling, cleaning and wearing contacts:
Wash your hands. Always wash your hands with soap and water before touching contacts. Then dry your hands with a clean, lint-free towel.
Use solution. Rub and rinse contacts with contact lens disinfecting solution—never water—every time you remove them. And only use a solution advised by your eye-care professional.
Take care in water. Don’t shower when wearing your contacts, and take them out before swimming or using a hot tub.
Don’t sleep in them. Not unless an eye-care professional tells you it’s OK.
Keep your glasses close by. Always carry a backup pair of glasses with a current prescription in case you need to remove your contacts.
You should also remember to:
Visit your eye care professional yearly—or as often as he or she advises. While there, ask how to care for your contacts and supplies.
Remove your contacts right away and call your eye-care professional if you have eye pain, discomfort, redness or vision problems.