A new study reveals that just two percent of contact lens wearers follow all the rules when it comes to contact lens hygiene, while more than 80 percent of people believe that they follow good practices, America's NPR reported on Tuesday.
The biggest sins are showering, swimming, and sleeping while wearing your contact lenses, and using contacts longer than you should before opening a fresh pair, NPR reported.
The study was published in the December issue of the journal Optometry and Vision Science.
"This is particularly common with lenses approved for two-week use," Randall Fuerst, OD, a spokesman for the American Optometric Association, told WebMD. "People often use them for three weeks or even a month, which can cause problems."
In the new study, 72 percent of the surveyed contact lens wearers said they had experienced discomfort from their lenses and 47 percent reported having had an infection from their lenses.
Other bad habits include "topping off" the solution in the lens case instead of rinsing and soaking lenses in fresh solution each day and never or rarely replacing the lens case.
Mild problems include conjunctivitis, an inflammation known as "pink eye" that can be caused by a bacterial infection. More serious issues are Acanthamoeba, pseudomonas and E. coli infections, which could cause blindness.
"We see patients all the time with pseudomonas ulcers, gray green pus, they go blind," study researcher Dwight Cavanagh, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, told NPR. "We see amoeba infections from people showering in their contacts, going swimming in lakes. These infections are horrible."
A separate 2011 survey cited by NPR "found 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."
The American Academy of Ophthalmology, Contact Lens Association for Ophthalmologists, the Cornea Society and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery offer these tips:
- Try to avoid contact between your lenses and water (remove lenses before going swimming).
- Never rinse or store lenses in water, whether tap or sterile.
- Saline solution and rewetting drops are not meant to disinfect your contact lenses.
- Discard your old lenses and start a new pair according to the schedule given to you by your eye care professional.
- To clean your lenses, rub them with your fingers (even if the solution is a no-rub formula) and then rinse them with solution.
- Rinse your contact lens case with solution, not water. Allow the case to air-dry.
- Replace your contact lens case every three months.