Most teenagers and young adults who wear contact lenses have at least one bad habit that raises their risk of a nasty eye infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
These bad habits include not removing their lenses before bedtime, wearing them in the swimming pool and skipping eye doctor visits, the CDC team found.
Germy contact lenses can cause serious eye infections, some of which can lead to blindness.
“It’s important for people who wear contact lenses to properly clean their lenses and to regularly visit an eye-care provider,” the CDC team wrote in their report.
“CDC recommends that people who wear contact lenses replace their contact lenses as often as recommended by an eye doctor, replace their case at least every three months, avoid sleeping in lenses and avoid swimming or showering in lenses.”
With more than 3.6 million kids aged 12 to 17 wearing contact lenses, bad habits can lead to a number of eye infections.
The survey of more than 6,000 people aged 12 and older found that more than 80 percent of all people have at least one habit known to raise the risk of eye infections.
The report is a follow-up to a 2015 survey that found millions of contact lens wearers had poor contact lens hygiene at least some of the time resulting in nearly a third of them having to go to the eye doctor as a result.
Interestingly, teenagers had slightly cleaner habits than young adults in their 20s, the CDC team found. That may be because they still live at home under adult supervision, the researchers, led by Dr. Jennifer Cope, said.
“Young adults have been reported to have poor planning and a more impulsive lifestyle in relation to contact lens hygiene, possibly related to crowded living conditions (e.g., dormitories, living with roommates and sharing bathrooms), alcohol consumption and attitudes conducive to taking greater risks,” the researchers noted.
“A higher percentage of young adults also reported ever having a red or painful eye while wearing contact lenses, suggesting that poor hygiene practices might lead to complications.”
The CDC recommends: washing hands with soap and water and drying them well before touching contact lenses; removing contacts before sleeping, showering or swimming; rubbing and rinsing contacts in disinfecting solution each time they are removed; and rinsing the case with contact lens solution, drying it and storing it upside down with the caps off after each use.
“Even household tap water, although safe for drinking, contains microorganisms that can contaminate lens cases and contact lenses and cause eye infections, especially when not replaced at recommended intervals,” the CDC noted.
“Although some soft and rigid contact lenses have Food and Drug Administration approval for overnight wear, sleeping in any type of contact lens increases the risk for eye infections.”
The survey found that 44 percent of adolescents fail to visit an eye doctor at least once a year and 30 percent admitted to sleeping or napping at least sometimes with lenses in.
More than half of young adults admitted they sometimes did not replace lenses as often as prescribed and more than 40 percent failed to regularly replace storage cases.