ATLANTA, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Most people who wear contact lenses have not cared for them properly, risking infection in one or both eyes at some point, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control.
Researchers found that most of the 40.9 million people in the United States who wear contact lenses disregard recommendations of how to care for them, as well as how to protect their eyes. This includes basic guidelines about cleaning lenses with water and when to take them out.
The CDC mounted the survey after several multi-state outbreaks of serious eye infections over the course of the last decade, according to the study, which is published in the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
"These findings have informed the creation of targeted prevention messages aimed at contact lens wearers such as keeping all water away from contact lenses, discarding used disinfecting solution from the case and cleaning with fresh solution each day, and replacing their contact lens case every 3 months," reseachers wrote.
CDC received roughly 1,000 responses to its Contact Lens Risk Survey, of which 82 percent came from women and 62 percent were from people between the age of 18 and 40. All of the participants in the survey were older than age 18. Researchers noted that the problem may be worse, because lens wearers younger than 18 were excluded from the survey.
Overall, 99 percent of respondents to the survey had engaged in some type of behavior risking an eye infection or some type of inflammation. The researchers found that 87 percent had napped in their contacts, 50 percent slept in them overnight, and 55 percent topped off lens solution rather than replacing it when cleaning lenses. More than 82 percent of people extended the life of a lens case beyond recommended time frames, and 49.9 percent waited to replace their lenses.
Tap water, which is especially bad for contact lenses, was used by 35 percent of lens wearers for cleaning at least once and 16 percent said they'd stored them in water at least once. Water is especially bad for contact lenses because of microorganisms that are safe to drink but can be bad for the eyes.
The CDC's recommendations include vigorous efforts to promote better hygeine among lens wearers, especially with regard to keeping water away from their lenses and replacing them in a more timely fashion.