Unless contact lens wearers want to land in the hospital with a nasty eye infection, they need to get serious about proper lens care, a CDC study suggests. Its study, published yesterday, looks at inflammation of the cornea, or keratitis. Noting the "overall burden ... of keratitis in the United States" hadn't been well documented, the CDC set out to do just that, analyzing various medical databases to estimate that we visit the doctor or an ER roughly 1 million times each year for keratitis or contact lens disorders. NPR notes the CDC couldn't parse out which of the 1 million patients were also contact lens wearers.
But as the study points out, "Contact lens wear is the major risk factor for microbial keratitis." Though antibiotics can usually treat the potentially painful infection, the costs are steep: an estimated $175 million annually in "direct health care expenditures." Contact lens users "need to understand that this is a medical device," an expert adds. "It needs to be treated with respect." Some 38 million Americans wear contact lenses, so here are a few reminders: Wash your hands before handling the lenses; don't shower or swim with them in; and replace your lens case every three months. (What not to do: what this woman did.)