Doctor: Sleeping with contact lenses increases risk of corneal infection

Doctor: Sleeping with contact lenses increases risk of corneal infection

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Eye infections caused by contact lenses are seen daily in the office of Dr. Crystal Whittington, a Lowcountry eye doctor.

We asked her about  the new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said almost everyone who wears contact lenses does something that could lead to a serious eye infection.

The CDC says 99 percent of the people surveyed reported at last one risky behavior.

Dr. Whittington says the most common problem here in the Lowcountry is people sleeping in their contact lenses.

"People with poor vision want to be able to get up in the middle of the night and see well, so they are sleeping in their lenses," said Dr. Whittington.

It can be a serious problem, according to Dr. Whittington, who said you risk losing a cornea.

"With certain infections, we have to send patients to cornea specialists," she said.

And the serious damage can happen very quickly.

Dr. Whittington says any patient sleeping in lenses increases the risk of corneal infection, even if the lenses are FDA approved for longer wear.

"We are recommending refractive surgery to eliminate risky behavior with lenses," Dr. Whittington continued.

The problem, she says, is that people often try to stretch the length of recommended wear.

"We fit very few conventional lenses these days,"  she said.  "Most are disposables, which should be a healthier option, but people are stretching two week lenses out to a month, and monthly lenses beyond that," she said.

Wearing the lens longer than recommended creates the opportunity for bacteria to invade and cause problems, she said.

While sleeping in lenses appears to be the biggest problem in the lowcountry, the CDC study reports the top two risky behaviors are keeping lens cases longer than recommended, followed by topping off solution in the case.

Dr. Whittington says those problems are prevalent here in South Carolina as well.

"We haven't done a great job educating patients about disposal of cases and there is no way to properly disinfect the cases," she said.

Dr. Whittington continued, "When you buy new solution, it comes with a new case, and the patient isn't always opening the new case, or not buying solution as often as necessary because they're topping off what they already have."

Because the infections can cause serious damage within 24 hours, if you have redness, discharge, light sensitivity or discomfort in your eye and you wear contact lenses, you should contact your doctor immediately.

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