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CDC Says Keep Water, and Other Things Away From Contact Lenses

Watch out for water? That's what the CDC says, if you wear contact lenses. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Watch out for water? That's what the CDC says, if you wear contact lenses. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
August 31, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - People in South Dakota and across the country who wear contact lenses 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 "Contact Lens Health Week."

Medical epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Cope authored a report in which 99 percent of wearers reported at least one hygiene risk behavior, such as 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 risks are storing or rinsing lenses in tap water, and showering or swimming while wearing lenses. She says water exposes the lenses to dangerous bacteria. Other risks include sleeping with lenses and wearing them past the expiration date.

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

"These are behaviors younger people might be doing more often," says Cope. "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 healthcare visits for contact lens complications and keratitis, which is the inflammation of the cornea, at a cost of $175 million.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD