When his eye began itching, Chad Groeschen didn’t really think too much about it. He had been working on an outdoor deck for a new client and chocked it up to some bad allergies. Over time, though, his problems escalated. His eye became goopy, he got a sinus infection, and he found himself totally blind in his infected eye. He had no idea what was wrong so he did what anyone should do – he went to the doctor. As it turns out, his contact lens was the culprit.
Doctors at Cincinnati Eye Institute were able to diagnose Chad with a bacterial infection that was destroying his eye’s outer layer; the cornea.
“It was basically that if I hadn’t had contacts [the bacteria] might not have incubated,” said Groeschen, a 39-year-old builder and sculptor.
Chad was using what are called extended wear lenses that need to be removed every week for cleaning. They were approved by the FDA for overnight wear, but the American Academy of Ophthalmology warns against this type of use.
Chad is just one of countless people who use contacts in a way that can imperil the good health of their eyes. A study recently released by the CDC found that 41 million adults in the US wash and store their lenses in unhygienic ways.
The biggest mistake you can make is sleeping or napping with your contacts in, which is what about 87% of contact-wearers admit they’re guilty of.
“Individuals are likely doing at least one, if not more, of these behaviors,” said Dr. Jennifer R. Cope of the CDC.
“We think that there’s an event where maybe you seed the contact lens or your case with one of the microorganisms that can cause infection and then subsequent behavior can allow that to amplify so it’s causing an infection,” Cope said.
“Showering in lenses or not replacing contact lens solution could seed the bugs, then wearing lenses for too long could allow them to amplify,” she added.
If you find yourself having any redness or pain in your eyes, especially if you wear contacts, it’s best to see a doctor immediately. Also, it’s worth taking the time to brush up on contact lens safety.