Be Kind to Contacts
I'm what Jack Schaeffer, chairman of the American Optometric Association's contact lens and cornea section, calls a "contact abuser." I didn't realize it until speaking with him for this article, but I'm putting myself at risk for all sorts of eye diseases, including many that can lead to blindness or corneal transplants. And I'm not alone. Statistics vary, but some put the number of "noncompliant" contact lens wearers at up to 74 percent.
I have two-week lenses that I sometimes stretch to three or four weeks. Now and then I swim with my lenses in. I haven't memorized my contact type or model, and I'm not loyal to one brand of solution, sometimes buying whatever is cheapest or has the most interesting package instead of what my doctor recommends. A few times on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, I slept with my contacts in. Occasionally I've used water instead of solution to keep my lenses wet. And last, but certainly not least, my contacts don't receive nightly rubs as I, naively enough, trusted those "no rub" slogans on the solution boxes. Somewhere in that list is the reason I ended up with a nasty eye infection last year that left me in pain for days and scarred my cornea.
Contacts are so easy to use, you forget they're medical devices that carry medical risks. But after a frightening fungal keratitis outbreak in April linked to ReNu MoistureLoc and poor contact care habits, optometrists are going on the offensive. So pay attention to how you treat your lenses. It's easy to change your habits if you consider that simple moves like cleaning your case each day and routinely replacing your lenses might save your vision (fda.gov/cdrh/contactlenses/eyecare.html offers recommendations).
This story appears in the December 25, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.