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More than 30 million Americans use contact lenses, according to the CDC. But, while they are generally safe to use, as well as convenient alternatives to dealing with glasses every day, there are certain health risks associated with contact lenses.

“Because they are worn directly on the eye, they can lead to conditions such as eye infections and corneal ulcers,” says James Saviola, M.D., the Ophthalmic and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices Network Leader in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). “These conditions can develop very quickly and can be very serious. In rare cases, they can lead to blindness.”

In fact, People recently reported that a woman lost her vision due to eyeball-eating amoebas. The single-celled organisms formed after the woman left her contacts in for six months without changing or cleaning them.

“A shortage of oxygen can destroy the surface of the epithelial tissue, creating tiny wounds into which the bacteria can easily infect, spreading to the rest of the eye and providing a perfect breeding ground,” said Wu Jian-liang, director of ophthalmology at Taipei’s Wan Fang Hospital.

Contact Lens Care 101

According to WebMD, there are certain steps that lens wearers should always be mindful of for the sake of healthier lenses…and, of course, healthier eyes:

  • Carefully follow your doctor’s instructions regarding how long you can keep your lenses in, when to replace them, and how to clean them.
  • Wash your hands with mild soap before handling lenses.
  • Dry hands with a clean, lint-free towel.
  • Try to keep your fingernails short and smooth to avoid damaging your lenses or scratching your eyes.
  • Apply makeup after you put in your lenses, and take them out before you remove your makeup.
  • Never use tap water or saliva directly on lenses.
  • Clean your contact lens case every time you use it with either sterile solution or hot tap water. Let it air dry.
  • Replace your contact lens storage case every three months.