8:53, 27.Jul 2016
Contact lens wearers have been warned that they face permanent vision problems and even blindness if they sleep in them.
The alert follows official data from the U.S which found that a fifth of contact lens-related infections led to eye damage.
Worryingly, more than a quarter of the 1,075 infections may have been triggered by poor hygiene or laziness on the part of the wearer.
Misuse included sleeping with lenses, which raises the risk of infection up to eight-fold, as well as wearing lens for longer than advised, cleaning them with tap water and swimming with them in.
Michael Beach, of the American government’s Centers for Disease Control, said: “Contact lenses are a safe and effective form of vision correction when worn and cared for as recommended.
“However, improper wear and care of contact lenses can cause eye infections and sometimes lead to serious long-term damage.”
The NHS says that many of the three million-plus Britons who wear contact lenses don’t follow instructions on safe use.
The US health officials analysed a decade of reports made by eye doctors, contact lens manufacturers and patients.
In 20 per cent of cases, the wearer suffered scarring, vision loss, or damage so great that they needed a corneal transplant.
More than one in ten was so worried, or in so much pain, that they went to A&E for care and 25 people were admitted to hospital.
The CDC said that contact lens users should not sleep in their lenses unless advised to do so by their optician, always use fresh solution to sterilise their lenses and replace their lenses as recommended.
Dr Jennifer Cope of the CDC said: “Around 41 million people in the United States wear contact lenses and benefit from the improved vision and comfort they provide.
“While people who get serious eye infections represent a small percentage of those who wear contacts, they serve as a reminder for all contact lens wearers to take simple steps to prevent infections.”
Naresh Joshi, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon in London, echoed the advice.
Mr Joshi, of the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said that while most people don’t get infections, when they do occur they can be “unbearably” painful.
In severe cases, people are left blind and a corneal transplant is their only option.
Mr Joshi said: “A corneal transplant is a big deal. It is major surgery and afterwards, vision is never quite as good as it was before.”
Other patients require two-hourly treatment with eye drops, which need to be put in day and night.
The eye surgeon, who is a member of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, said: “If you wear contact lenses and develop symptoms such as redness or irritation, you must stop wearing them immediately.
“And if you are not better within a day, see somebody. The worst thing you can do is to continue wearing your lenses.”
Source: Daily Mail