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Swimming, Showering With Contact Lens Among the No-No's, Says CDC

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Contact lens wearers need good hygiene habits to avoid bacteria that can blind a person. Credit: J Durham/Morguefile
Contact lens wearers need good hygiene habits to avoid bacteria that can blind a person. Credit: J Durham/Morguefile
 By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN, Contact
August 27, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Indiana contact lens wearers, and others around the country, are encouraged to practice the best possible hygiene habits in order to avoid bacteria that can blind a person.

That's the message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during this "Contact Lens Health Week."

Dr. Jennifer Cope, medical epidemiologist with the CDC, authored a report in which 99 percent of wearers reported at least one contact lens hygiene risk behavior, such as sleeping in them, or exposing the lens to water.

"That allows bacteria, all kinds of microorganisms, to come into contact with your contact lens," says Cope. "Then that lens goes on your eye and that's how the microorganisms can find their way into your eye and cause an infection."

Cope says common risk behaviors are storing or rinsing lenses in tap water, and showering or swimming while wearing lenses.

South Bend eye doctor Linnea Robbins-Winters says the healthiest option is single-use lenses. She cautions, too many people with two-week or one-month contact lenses are stretching them past the expiration date.

"What happens is there's oils and proteins in your tear film that adheres to the lens and that decreases the amount of oxygen that can permeate to that lens and that increases the risk of infection," she says.

An estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. wear contact lenses, but Cope says educating young people is a central focus this week.

"We do think these are behaviors younger people might be doing more often," says Cope. "So we have targeted some of our health promotion materials to younger age groups."

Cope adds each year in the U.S., there are nearly a million health care visits for contact lens complications and keratitis, which is the inflammation of the cornea at a cost of $175 million.

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