Contacts-related eye infections pose a significant threat
The contact lens industry is booming. According to the market research experts at Grand View Research, Inc., the global contact lens market size was estimated at nearly $13 billion in 2019, and that market is expected to expand significantly by 2027.
Contact lenses are an option for people who need corrective eyewear but don’t want to wear traditional eyeglasses. Contact lenses have become so popular that it’s easy to overlook the risks they pose, and many wearers have acknowledged they routinely engage in behaviors that put them at risk of contact lens-related eye infection. One study published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in 2014 found that 99 percent of contact lens wearers reported at least one behavior that puts them at risk for an eye infection
related to their use of contact lenses. The CDC also notes that 20 percent of patients with contact lens-related corneal infections suffered eye damage as a result.
Two of the more significant threats to the eye health of contact lens wearers are microbial keratitis and corneal inflammatory events. Thankfully, adverse side effects like MK and CIEs are often preventable. Proper handwashing prior to handling contact lenses is a simple and effective way for wearers to reduce their risk for contact lens-related eye infections.
Proper handwashing involves washing hands thoroughly with a mild soap, rinsing them completely and then drying them with a lint-free towel prior to inserting or removing lenses from the eyes. As simple as that may sound, many contact lens wearers have acknowledged they routinely disregard these guidelines when handling their lenses. In fact, a 2017 survey of 950 contact lens wearers sponsored by CooperVision found that while 88 percent of respondents believed bacteria on fingers could transfer to their eyes during lens insertion, 41 percent still did not wash their hands prior to insertion. That’s a big mistake, as a 2015 study published in the visual science journal Eye found that the risk of MK was 13 times higher for wearers who didn’t wash their hands prior to handling their lenses compared to those who did. The College of Optometrists notes that MK is a potentially severe, sight-threatening condition, which underscores the importance of adhering to basic contact lens safety practices like handwashing prior to handling.
Many people who need corrective eyewear prefer contact lenses to traditional eyeglasses. Though contact lenses are safe, much of that safety rests in the hands of the wearers themselves.