How many times have you let basic contact lens hygiene slide, sleeping in them overnight or occasionally using tap water instead of solution? During these occasions, you’ve probably thought: How bad can it be? If you’re unscrupulous about cleaning and caring for your contact lenses, here’s a cautionary tale that might goad you to change your neglectful ways forever.
In July, a Taiwanese student lost her vision due to an ameobic infection that developed when she wore her contact lenses continuously for six months. That’s right—tiny microscopic bugs called amoebas gnawed away at the corneas of both eyes, causing her to go blind.
The student, Lian Kao, bought contact lenses that were supposed to only be worn for one month, but she ended up keeping them in for six months around the clock, even wearing them while swimming. This poor hygiene created the perfect breeding grounds for amoebas to burrow, says Wu Jian-liang, the director of ophthalmology at Taipei’s Wan Fang Hospital. “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.”
Moral of the story? Always heed your ophthalmologist’s advice and never be careless with your contacts. A good rule of thumb is to never leave contacts in for more than 8 hours a day.