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Contact Lens Abuse causing Millions of eye infections

A recent study (November 2014) released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed in 2010 there were an estimated 988,000 visits to doctors’ offices, outpatient clinics, and emergency departments for keratitis and contact lens related eye conditions. The total cost was estimated to be $175 million. There was over 250,000 hours of clinician time spent seeing these patients for contact lens related microcrobial keratitis. They also estimated the cost of a doctor’s visit for keratitis is $151.00 on average; each emergency room visit costs an average of $587.00 Neither of these fees includes the cost of medications to treat the eye infections.

In the majority of cases (76%) an anti-microbial prescription was prescribed and by far the biggest single risk factor was contact lens wear.“Among the estimated 38 million contact lens wearers in the United States, poor storage case hygiene, infrequent storage case replacement, and overnight lens wear are established preventable risk factors for microbial keratitis, contact lens-related inflammation and other eye complications”

This study, if anything, under represents the incidence of infectious keratitis as it captured few optometric offices. Optometrists provide over 70% of eye care in America. The prescribed prescriptions recorded were only those covered by insurance not those filled by private pay. Lastly, visits for contact lens related corneal problems do not all involved microbial keratitis. Others may involve erosions, abrasions or foreign bodies.

To prevent complications patients should follow these recommendations:

Wash hands with soap and water and dry well before handling lensesRemove contact lenses nightly and before swimmingRub and rinse contacts in disinfecting solution each time removedReplace contact lens cases every monthRub and rinse the contact lens case with contact solution, dry the case and keep it upside down with the caps off dailyDo not “top off” solution in the lens caseReplace the lens on schedule (do not extend the recommended replacement schedule)Avoid sleeping in your contact lensHave backup glasses with a current prescription available

Remember, when an eye is sore, red, inflamed or irritated, remove the contact lenses, and see an eye doctor. Eye infections can cause permanent vision loss. The sooner treatment is started the faster the recovery and the better the outcome.