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Corneal Infection Risk Posed By Sleeping in Contact Lens, Yet Warnings Often Ignored: CDC

As part of “Contact Lens Health Week”, a new report by federal health officials highlight the risk of corneal infections from sleeping in contact lenses, indicating that many wearers ignore warnings, despite the risk that these serious infections may result in vision loss or the need for eye surgery. 

Researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at six contact lens corneal infection cases associated with sleeping in lenses. The findings were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on August 17.

Sleeping in contact lenses is known to increase the risk of eye infections by up to a factor of eight, according to the report. However, an estimated one-third of contact lens users report that still they sometimes sleep or nap while wearing a contact lens.

The report looks at six specific cases where individuals slept in contact lenses and suffered infections. According to the findings, all of the patients required antibiotic eye drops, in some cases they had to take the drops every hour for weeks or even months. Two of the patients needed eye surgery and most of the patients suffered permanent eye damage or vision loss, CDC researchers report.

The CDC researchers also indicate that three of the patients bought their contact lenses without a valid prescription, and in one case the lenses were only meant to be decorative.

“Sleeping in contact lenses is one of the most frequently reported contact lens risk behaviors and one with a high relative risk for corneal infection,” the researchers wrote. “Sleeping in lenses has been shown to be a risk factor regardless of lens material and frequency, with even occasional overnight use conferring risk.”

In 2016, the CDC warned that about one out of every five individuals diagnosed with a contact lens infection suffer eye damage, and in most cases those infections could have been avoided.

Keratitis, or inflamation of the cornea, causes about 1 million clinic or emergency room visits every year, according to a new study by federal researchers. The data indicates many Americans are experiencing problems resulting from improper use of their contact lenses.

Nearly 1,100 eye infections caused by contact lenses were reported to the FDA’s Medical Device Report Database between 2005 and 2015 contained the term “ulcer” or “keratitis,” which is a serious inflammation of the cornea.

One in five of the patients described serious side effects such as central corneal scarring, a decrease in visual acuity, or requiring a corneal transplant after becoming infected.

The CDC report suggests that all contact lens infections be reported to the FDA’s MedWatch adverse event reporting system and be considered adverse health events.

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