Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Contact Lens Hygiene

clockwork-orange drollgirl contact lens hygiene
scene from A Clockwork Orange

Did you hear this contact lens hygiene story on NPR? I have worn contact lenses for about 25 years, so I gave the story a good listen hoping to learn something new. Boy, did I! Read it all if it applies to you.  Or if you are lazy and just want to hit the part that made me cackle, see the highlighted portion below.


OK. If you wear contact lenses, you're in a club with 40 million other Americans. Most people probably think they're taking care of the contact lenses properly. But a recent study finds that's not the case. In fact, as NPR's Patti Neighmond reports, research has found practically nobody is taking proper hygienic care of their contacts.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: Cleaning and storing contact lenses isn't complicated, but it does require adherence to certain simple but important steps. And it turns out most people are taking some risky shortcuts.

DANIELLE ROBERTSON: For the most part, patients know what they should be doing, but yet they fail to do it.

NEIGHMOND: Danielle Robertson is a vision scientist at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, who recently surveyed 433 people who wore contacts. It turned out less than one percent were doing everything right. That means 99 percent were doing something wrong. Most commonly, it had to do with storage. When contacts aren't being worn, they're supposed to be kept in a small plastic container full of sterile solution. Robertson says too many people didn't bother changing it; they just topped it off.

ROBERTSON: Topping off means at the end of the day you go, you take the lid off your case. You still have some solution left from the night before. So rather than dump it out, you just squirt a little extra in.

NEIGHMOND: Big mistake, she says, leftover solution in the lens case is often already contaminated with bacteria.

ROBERTSON: So if you get bacteria in that lens case and it's sitting in old solution that's no longer effective all day, in that wet environment, the bacteria will continue to grow and they'll form little communities called biofilms.

NEIGHMOND: Biofilm, a sort of bacterial slime.

ROBERTSON: So once you get a big thick heavy biofilm in that case, it's going to be really hard to get it out of there. And studies in our lab and other laboratories have shown that, you know, after about nine months, I'd say 80 to 90 percent of lens cases have bacterial contamination.

NEIGHMOND: Which can cause eye irritations, allergic reactions, and even infections. Ophthalmologist Jim Salz, with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, says hygiene is important at every step.

DR. JIM SALZ: You wash your hands for sure and you remove each contact and put it in the reservoir, and then you leave them overnight. And then in the morning you take them out, with clean hands again. And you wash your hands, take the contact and put it in your eye.

NEIGHMOND: And ideally, empty out the case completely.

ROBERTSON: Clean it, let it air dry and then refill it with some more solution. And every month or so, get a new case.

NEIGHMOND: And always use a sterile cleaning solution. A recent study in Great Britain found that some people were actually using fruit juice, butter and even beer to store and clean their contact lenses. That's an obvious don't. Another, says Salz, sleeping in your contacts.

SALZ: The risk of sleeping in contact lenses, the risk of getting a serious corneal ulcer is one in 1,000 patients. Whereas, if you take them out every day, it's one in 10,000 patients. So it's 10 times riskier to sleep in contacts then to take them out every day.

NEIGHMOND: And one of the biggest and often overlooked risks is water - the ocean, lakes, swimming pools, hot tubs, even tap water - places where potentially dangerous organism like amoebas can lurk.

Researcher Danielle Robertson.

ROBERTSON: These amoebas can actually bind to your lenses and then you go back, you store your lenses in the lens case, you have an old lens case, there's lots of bacteria in it, these guys are going to feed on that, like sitting down at the table at Thanksgiving and they're just going to grow and flourish.

NEIGHMOND: Putting you at risk for an infection so severe it can cause permanent visual damage and even blindness. So don't cavalierly clean and store your contacts, make sure you adhere to all those simple, little, but critically important, steps.



Selena Cruz said...

i lol-ed. only read your highlighted part though. i think thats all i needed.

Improbable Joe said...

No offense to the science geeks... since I'm a science geek too... but the completely lack of rampant blindness from "improper" contact lens care makes me think that the rules aren't exactly necessary.

Felicia said...

BUTTER???? HAHAHAHAHA!!! What a waste of deliciousness! I seriously thought I would be a top offender but it looks like I clean & store my lenses properly. Weird!

MarlaD said...

I totally agree with Joe...everyone would be blind or teeming with corneal ulcers since I doubt many follow the "rules" but WTF...BUTTER? Nuh uh, someone made that up. Every optometrist I've ever known gives away solution for free (I've never bought any) so why the heck would you skimp on it? Wait...BUTTER?

Lorena said...

BUtter. Seriously ?
My brother had to stop using his about 8 years ago because he had a really serious eye infection. He probably stored then in beer.

Aline said...

huhhhhhh ugh i was totally cringing while reading this as it completely freaks me out even though i wear them like 6 days a week. i need laser eye surgery.

Trissta said...

Of course this comes from Great Britain.... The quality of their eyes has to match the quality of their teeth! lol I love how the next paragraph is about sleeping with your contacts in. Don't worry, after I steep my contacts in my beer, I'm just gonna lay back and let it do it's work. LOL So glad I don't need contacts yet... I'm knocking on wood now.

Much Love,

Dancing Branflake said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Beer? What? This is hilarious! I mean, I know I don't take very good care of my contacts (1 month pair is in for at least four) but I know to not reuse the saline and not use beverages from my fridge. What?!

Jessica ( frellathon ) said...

Fruit juice, butter and beer. Um who are these people and why has the human race not imploded from sheer stupidity.

Kerrianwills said...

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...love Maegan said...

What fucking idiot would store their contacts in fucking BUTTER!??!?!?!?! omg.

Kristine said...

Butter? Why not a big vat of gravy? I had to wear coke bottle glasses from the time I was 10, right around my growth spurt when I became an amazon among all the cute little non-glasses wearing girls. It was very traumatic.I had laser eye surgery a couple of years ago. It is amazing to open my eyes in the morning and see and shave my legs in the shower and actually see what I am doing.

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

I can NOT believe people were using those solutions. WHAT is wrong with them?

十十f十 said...

i kinda skimmed past some and then my eyes landed on those pink words. it's the word "amoebas" that really got me. how to mitigate this??? i do ditch my lens cases everyone once so often.

i've worn contacts for the longest time too. tried almost every cleaning method out there. i'd still get conjunctivitis periodically. i was close to trying out hard lens. until the arrival of disposables.

SConnerFoto said...

Ewwwww! I was disgusted before the butter & beer revelation. how do you NOT change your solution every time? Crazy fucking people! I started wearing contacts when I was 12 and had better habits than most adults apparently.

Libbeh said...

I'm surprised at the large percentage of ppl who don't properly take care of storing their contact lenses. I mean, no offense meant, but are people just lacking common sense? The tips I heard were not news to me, but then again, I'm Miss Clean/Neat Freak. Another thing they left out is to throw away your contact lens case every so often.. like 3 months or something like that. Bacteria can still grow, even if you air out your case.