Dirty Little Secret: Almost Nobody Cleans Contacts Properly?

People who wear contact lenses say they're diligent about keeping them clean. But press them for details, and it turns out that hardly anyone is doing it the right way. Watch this video for a brief refresher:

In a survey of more than 400 contact lens wearers, only 2 percent of them are following the rules for safe contact lens use. Chief among the sins is showering or swimming while wearing contacts, sleeping in them and using them longer than recommended before throwing them out.

People also commit "solution misuse," topping off the disinfectant solution in the case rather than starting afresh, and 47 percent of the people asked said they never replace their lens case, or only do so when the eye doctor gives them a new one at the annual visit. The research was published in the December issue of Optometry and Vision Science.

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Would you eat a rotten apple?

Then why wear old and dirty contact lenses?

A separate new survey 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. 

Do you want to be one of those people who is going blind and it hurts like crazy and you can't work for three months? Once you've got a serious eye infection going in your cornea, you're in trouble. Eye infections caused by contact lenses are relatively rare; the risk ranges from 1 in 7,500 for hard-lens wearers to 1 in 500 for people who sleep in daily wear lenses. 

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It is very common for patients to have serious and painful complications after showering in their contacts and going swimming in lakes. And showering or swimming with contacts is clearly a big no-no. That exposes eyes to Acanthamoeba, an organism that commonly lives in tap water and lakes. Some infections have involved contaminated contact lens solution, but other people have been infected by showering or swimming.