Proper hygiene prevents contact lens infections

Ashley Hoang, Features Editor

Too tired to take out your contact lenses after a long day of school? Too lazy to clean them properly before inserting them back into your eye?

For some students, the daily routine for cleaning and caring for contacts may seem tedious. However, users who fail to to adequately care for their contact lenses may find themselves experiencing irritation in their eyes that may lead to potential and serious eye infections.

The American Optometric Association reports that these infections can lead to blindness, affecting one out of every 500 contact lens users per year.

In August of 2015, sculptor Chad Groeschen lost total vision in his left eye, according to BuzzFeed News. Groeschen, after visiting a specialist, discovered his eyes were severely infected with Pseudomonas bacteria due to sleeping and wearing his contacts longer than the recommended amount of time.

Roughly, 90 percent of contact lens wearers reported at least one contact lens hygiene habit that is associated with risk for eye infection or inflammation, and more than half of users reported sleeping at least once with their contact lenses, according to  a 2011 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Some examples of poor contact lens hygiene are reusing old contact lens solution, swimming or showering while wearing contacts, rinsing the contact lens in tap water, or overwearing the contact lens.

One  eye infection that results from poor contact lenses hygiene is Amoebic Keratitis, the inflammation of the cornea which can result in partial or total loss of vision.

The tiny parasites, Acanthamoeba, are commonly found in water sources, such as tap water, well water, hot tubs, and soil and sewage systems.

“Topping” a solution — mixing old solution with new solution — is the most common way for Acanthamoeba to infect contact lens wearers’ eyes, causing a white “ring” to cover the iris, as well as redness in the white of the eye.

To avoid contracting infections such as Amoebic keratitis, optometrist Dr. Quinn Nguyen  from All-City Optometry suggests wearers to switch their contact lens cases every three months and use new solution each time.

“I usually recommend patients change their contact cases after three months — longer, if they keep it cleaner,” Nguyen said. “I highly suggest contact lenses wearers clean them every morning with disinfectant solution, if possible.”

Because these cases aren’t designed to handle regular, non-salty tap water, rinsing or cleaning them in tap water can  lead to potential contamination.

“A lot of my patients do not change their solution in the morning; they just take the contact lense out and put them back into the same solution later at night which could lead to contamination,” Nguyen said. “They also do not rub their lenses when they clean them or before they wear them and instead rinse them in tap water, which is full of bacteria.”

Nguyen reminds contact lens wearers to be thorough in their daily routine for washing and cleaning their contacts and to not overwear them.

“The number one thing is to never sleep with your contact lenses in,” Nguyen said. “Most of the time when people visit me for an inflammation or  infection in their eyes I would discover the main cause for these problems is sleeping with contacts in.”

Irritation and infections does not only come from poor cleaning habits, however. Wearing prescription or even the wrong prescription will result in eye complications. For some students, wearing the wrong prescription of contact lenses proved to not only be discomfort, but also put their eyesight in danger.

“[During sophomore year] I was prescribed the wrong contact lenses for almost a year,” senior Jennifer Gonzalez said. “I wore regular contact lenses instead of the ones for astigmatism, which led to me having an eye infection for a while.”