Poor contact lens care could cost your vision

HOUSTON Most of us never worry about our contact lenses causing an eye infection, but not Trish Stafford.

She said, "I was on the edge of losing my eye."

She got an infection from her contact lens.

"I'd put my head in a pillow and scream so neighbors wouldn't hear because I was hurting so bad," Trish said.

Trish's painful infection was caused by a rare amoeba, but most contact infections are caused by bacteria and viruses. And they can occur quickly. You can sleep in your contacts one night, get an infection and become legally blind in 24 hours.

Dr. Jeffrey Lanier of the Houston Eye Associates said, "It's almost an epidemic that's happening and we're seeing a lot of infections. "

Dr. Lanier saved Trish's vision with an emergency cornea transplant.

He cautioned, "Abusing contact lenses is dangerous."

Dr. Lanier says watch out for the symptoms -- pain, redness and decreased vision.

"First thing you do is take your contact off. If it doesn't go away completely you need to see an ophthalmologist," Dr. Lanier said.

Alice Weiser was losing her vision and feels lucky to have it back. She slept in her contacts for two days when she forgot her case on a trip.

"It was so scary," Alice recalled. "I came home; I said I have a problem. I can't see out of my right eye.

With medicine her vision returned.

Dr. Lanier said, "The worst thing you can do is wear them overnight."

Dr. Lanier says to avoid the infections you should also:

  • Never sleep in contacts
  • Avoid wearing contacts longer than 10 to 12 hours per day
  • Throw away soft contacts every two weeks
  • Replace case every three months -- Cases are a source of infection
  • Replace contact solution supply bottle every three months
  • Rub lenses with your finger while cleaning, even if you use "no rub" solutions
  • Never use water or your mouth to clean or moisten contacts
  • Avoid water in pools or hot tub.
  • Always have backup glasses available
  • Contact lenses should not be rinsed with or stored in water
  • Rinse lens case with solution after inserting contacts, then let air dry
Alice said, "I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' None of my friends knew this. I said, 'Do any of you leave your lenses in?' 'Well, sometimes I do.' Nobody knew this."

As for Trish, she says she'll never wear contacts again.

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