Sleeping with contacts in or forgetting to swap in a new pair according to schedule may be the unintended result of a harried lifestyle, but it could also lead to long-term eye damage, a new CDC study reports. Researchers looked at 1,075 cases of eye infections reported to an FDA medical device database over a 10-year period ending in 2015, and of those infections, almost 20% of them ended up causing more serious eye injuries, a CDC release reports. Those injuries ranged from scarred corneas and cornea transplants to other forms of vision problems. And of those who reported infections, the issue was bad enough for more than 10% of them to go to the ER or an urgent-care clinic for treatment.
Yet most people don't give a second thought to the perfunctory way in which they handle their contacts, a Lenox Hill Hospital ophthalmologist tells WebMD. "Unfortunately, many of the 41 million contact lens users in the United States do not think of a contact lens as a medical device they are placing on the surface of their eye," Dr. Mark Fromer says. In addition to replacing contacts as recommended, users should also follow other recommendations from the American Optometric Association to keep eyes healthy, per CBS News, including not sharing contacts with anyone, not using tap water to clean contacts, and no snoozing with them in, which the CDC says can raise the risk of an eye infection between six to eight times. (And then there are the eyeball-devouring amoebas.)