CDC to 40 million contact lens wearers: You’re doing it wrong

Photo: Flikr/Niek Beck

Nearly 41 million American adults wear contact lenses and virtually every single one is doing something to get germs in their eyes, a new federal survey shows. And they’re paying for it. Nearly a third admit they’ve gone to a doctor because of red or painful eyes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Half or more of wearers admitted they slept or napped while wearing lenses. About 55 percent said they just topped off solution instead of changing it and rinsing the case. And 61 percent swam while wearing lenses. And this survey only included adults. Teenagers may be even more likely to slip in their contact lens hygiene, CDC said.

“Approximately one third of contact lens wearers reported ever rinsing their lenses in tap water and 16.8 percent reported ever storing their lenses in tap water,” the CDC report reads.

More than 90 percent of people with rigid or “hard” lenses sometimes rinsed them in tap water, the team found.

“Even household tap water, although treated to be safe for drinking, is not sterile and contains microorganisms that can contaminate lens cases and contact lenses and cause eye infections,” CDC said. The CDC surveyed 1,000 people for its study.

“Contact lens wearers represent a significant proportion of the U.S. population, and their contact lens hygiene habits put them at risk for painful, costly eye infections that could lead to vision problems,” the report reads

“Nearly one million U.S. health care visits for keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) or contact lens complications occur annually, at a cost of $175 million. The largest single risk factor for microbial keratitis is contact lens wear.”

The CDC recommends: washing hands with soap and water and drying them well before touching contact lenses; taking out contacts out before sleeping, showering or swimming; rubbing and rinsing contacts in disinfecting solution each time they are removed; and rinsing the case with contact lens solution, drying it and storing it upside down with the caps off after each use. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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