Serious Eye Infections May Result from Improper Care of Contact Lenses

Simple steps may reduce the risk of infection and damage

Serious Eye Infections May Result from Improper Care of Contact Lenses
Image: Pexels
August 19, 2016

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a report stating that almost one out of five eye infections relating to the use of contact lenses that were reported to a federal database involved a patient with resultant eye damage, including a scarred cornea, the need for a corneal transplant, and other vision reduction.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received 1,075 reports of such infections between 2005 and 2015. These reports were reviewed in the CDC report. More than ten percent indicated that the patient went to either an emergency room or an urgent care clinic for immediate treatment.

Eye infections may be painful and disruptive of a patient's daily life regardless of whether the infection is minor or leads to long-lasting damage, as the reports show. They include descriptions of patients visiting eye doctors on a daily basis or administering eye drops hourly in order to treat the infection.

"Around 41 million people in the United States wear contact lenses and benefit from the improved vision and comfort they provide," says Jennifer Cope, M.D., M.P.H., a medical epidemiologist in CDC's Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch. "While people who get serious eye infections represent a small percentage of those who wear contacts, they serve as a reminder for all contact lens wearers to take simple steps to prevent infections."

It is often possible to prevent the contact lens-related eye infections that lead to such damage by following recommended usages for wearing and caring for their lenses and supplies. Recommendations can come from both the patient's eye doctor and directions on the lens label.

Patients can take three simple steps to reduce their chances of contracting a potentially-damaging contact lens-related eye infection. First, do not sleep with contact lenses in without discussing it with a doctor, as doing so increases the chance of contracting an eye infection by six to eight times. Second, do not top off or add new lens solution to old solution that has been sitting in the lens case, as this may lower the solution's power to kill germs. Finally, replace lenses as often as recommended by an eye doctor. Patients who do not do this report more complications and problems than those who do.

Adverse events related to use of contact lenses may be reported to the FDA, which regulates them as medical devices, by either a lens manufacturer, an eye care provider, or a patient.