Water can pose a serious health hazard for contact lens wearers, according to the CDC. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Wake Up and Take Those Lenses Out, Says CDC: It’s Not Worth The Risk

People across the nation 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 federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during this “Contact Lens Health Week.”

Dr. Jennifer Cope, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, authored a report in which 99 percent of wearers reported at least one contact lens 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,” she said, “and 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 said a common risk behavior is storing or rinsing lenses in tap water and showering or swimming while wearing lenses. She said water exposes the lenses to dangerous bacteria. Other risk behaviors include sleeping with lenses and wearing them past the expiration date.

An estimated 40 million adults in the United States wear contact lenses, but Cope said educating young people is a central focus this week.

“We do think that these are behaviors that younger people might be doing more often,” she said, “so yeah, we have targeted some of our health-promotion materials to younger age groups.”

Cope added that each year in the United States, there are nearly 1 million health-care visits for contact lens complications and keratitis, which is the inflammation of the cornea – at a cost of $175 million.

Details of the study are online at nbcnews.com.