Contacts are highly convenient but do require some upkeep. As an easy alternative to eyeglasses, they can’t be worn 24/7. However, keeping them clean will help to prevent eye infection from contacts. If you’re new to using contacts or experience eye irritation after removing contacts, you’re not alone. According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 45 million people around the world wear contact lenses. Interestingly, two-thirds of contact lens wearers are female, with the average age of all wearers being 31.
Habits You Should Avoid While Wearing Contacts
Developing good habits will prevent eye infection from contacts. Poor choices can result in serious infections that can cause scarring and vision loss. The CDC reports that approximately 99% of individuals who wear contacts have made at least one poor choice that could put them at risk for eye pain from contacts or inflammation. Between 80% and 90% of eye infection from contacts are bacterial but they can be avoided. By developing the following habits, you’ll have a lower chance of contracting an eye infection from contacts:
- Signs – Being aware of the signs of infection can help alert you when you have eyes irritated from contacts. Those signs include light sensitivity, blurred vision, red or painful eyes, watering or discharge, swelling, itching, burning, and feeling like something is in your eye. If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
- Water – Sometimes, water can contain pathogens or pollutants that can irritate the eye. When you swim with contacts in water that may retain bacteria, microbes, or free-swimming amoeba, you’re placing yourself at risk for impaired vision and infection.
- Sleep – While it’s incredibly important to follow the recommended replacement schedule for contact lenses, it’s just as important to remember to not sleep in them. Sleeping in your contacts restricts much-needed oxygen that can lead to abrasions and stress. Soft contact lenses create the ideal environment for bacteria to grow like a petri dish. Although daily disposable contacts help to reduce inflammation and infection, it’s important to remember to take them out before you go to sleep.
- Store – Always store your contacts in a hydrogen peroxide-based solution to avoid harmful bacteria. The typical recommendation is to store contacts for 4 to 6 hours daily using the proper supply case.
- Disinfect – Reusing storage and cleaning solutions is very common but can increase your chance of eye irritation after removing contacts. Avoid the temptation to simply “top off” your cleaning solution. It’s best to throw out the old solution completely and start fresh daily. As part of this routine, replacing your eye contact case at least every 2 months will decrease the chance of you getting an eye infection from contacts.
Risks of Eye Infection From Contacts
Can I wear contacts with pink eye? The short answer to this is no. It’s recommended to avoid wearing contacts with pink eye. However, these questions and many more will be answered in this section. There are many risks associated with using poorly sterilized contacts besides pink eye. If you choose to wear contacts, you are at higher risk for a cornea infection, also labeled as keratitis or corneal ulcers. A common problem, keratitis leads to 1 million doctor and hospital visits annually, according to the Center for Disease Control. Developing good habits of taking care of your contacts will help you avoid these and many other risks and infections associated with poor contact lens hygiene. Here is a list of a few other risks that you should be aware of:
- Bacteria – The bacteria on our nose, mouth, and skin are usually harmless. However, combining all of them can be quite dangerous. Staphylococcus aureus, also referred to as Staph, is a germ that is present in about 30% of the population’s noses. Although it usually does not cause harm, it can turn into a staph infection or worse under the right conditions. It is a difficult infection to treat but maintaining sterile contacts will help you avoid illness.
Another fast-moving and dangerous bacteria is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is known to leave a hole in your eye, causing permanent vision loss. Disinfecting your cases and lenses regularly will prevent this from taking place.
- Virus – It is possible to get pink eye from contacts. Pinkeye is caused by the same virus as the common cold or flu. Also referred to as conjunctivitis, wearing contacts with pinkeye can worsen symptoms and aggravate the condition. This is the time to wear eyeglasses temporarily until you are completely healed.
How long after pink eye can I wear contacts? It depends. Most pink eye infections are caused by a virus but they can come from bacteria as well. Both are equally highly contagious and can be caused by improperly cleaned contacts and direct or indirect contact with liquid drained from the eye of someone infected. The treatment you receive for your pinkeye infection will determine when you can use contacts again. Most doctors provide the following recommendations:
- When your full course of antibiotics has been taken in its entirety
- The redness or pinkness in your eyes is completely gone or
- Your pink eye symptoms have been absent for a full 24 hours.
This healing and recovery process will likely take time but you can ease symptoms with a cold compress and artificial tears. Always discard the cosmetics as well as contaminated contacts and lens cases you were using when you became infected. Also, check the expiration date for the current solution you are using to avoid any chance of reinfection.
- Parasite – A very small, one-celled amoeba called acanthamoeba thrives in water, particularly swimming pools, hot tubs, and even tap water. You can become easily susceptible to an eye infection when you wear contacts in water. If you do wear them, it’s best to keep your eyes closed while underwater. Parasites can cause keratitis and it is challenging to treat. Depending on the severity of the infection, a full cornea transplant may be necessary.
- Fungal – Although not common, a fungal infection can be caused by poorly sterilized contacts, according to the American Optometric Association. There is a very small risk of a fungal infection causing blindness and is usually treated with fungal eye drops.
Schedule Your Free Consultation Today
Are you ready to take that next step and get rid of contacts for good? If you’re dealing with ongoing issues from eye infection from contacts, symptoms can be eliminated by decreasing your reliance on them. We specialize in LASIK and laser vision treatment throughout New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Atlanta, Georgia. Our award-winning and highly qualified LASIK surgeons offer a variety of quick procedures that will have you returning back to your normal routine by the next day. With over 10 locations to serve you, our corrective procedures decrease dependency on glasses or contacts.
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