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Bad Habits Put Many Contact-Lens Wearers at Risk of Eye Infection

(Image credit: CDC)

Most Americans who wear contacts have bad hygiene habits with their lenses that could increase their risk of eye infection, according to a new report.

Researchers analyzed information from about 1,000 U.S. adults who wore contacts and answered questions about their contact care.

About 99 percent reported engaging in habits known to increase their risk of eye infections. For example, 85 percent said they showered with their contact lenses, 61 percent reported swimming with their lenses and 35 percent reported rinsing their lenses with water, according to the report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposing contact lenses to water can increase the risk of infection because microorganisms living in the water can be transferred to the eye, the CDC said.

In addition, about half of contact-lens wearers said they wore their contacts to bed, and 55 percent said they had "topped off" the solution in their contact-lens case, which means they added new solution to the old solution remaining in the case, rather than completely emptying the case before adding new solution.

About a third of contact-lens wearers said they had experienced pain and redness in their eyes related to their contact lenses that required a visit to the doctor. [7 Absolutely Horrible Head Infections]

"Tens of millions of U.S. adults enjoy the benefits of contact-lens wear, but many of them might be increasing their risk for complications because of poor wear and care behaviors," the researchers wrote in their report.

To prevent eye infections related to contact lens, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Wash your hands and dry them well before touching contact lenses
  • Remove contact lenses before sleeping, showering or swimming
  • Rub and rinse contact lenses in disinfecting solution when you take them out of your eyes
  • Clean and rinse the contact-lens case with solution, dry the case and store it upside down
  • Get a new contact-lens case at least once every three months
  • Don't "top off" the solution in your contact-lens case

The report is published this week in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. FollowLive Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.