Cornea infections like microbial keratitis are sending roughly 1 million Americans to hospital emergency rooms each year, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). These type of eye infections are most commonly associated with improper care and over-extended wear of contact lenses, especially sleeping with lenses in place.
It's estimated that 45 million Americans wear contact lenses.
“Sleeping in your contact lenses is risky and can lead to infections, or in some cases, permanent damage,” said Jon Femling, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine and lead author. “Falling asleep, or even napping, without removing your contact lenses can significantly increase the likelihood of serious health problems.”
In one case, a man evaluated for eye redness and blurry vision reported sleeping in contact lenses 3-4 nights per week and swimming with them. He was treated for bacterial and fungal microbial keratitis.
Another instance outlines an adolescent girl who slept in lenses purchased without a prescription at a chain drug store. She developed a corneal ulcer that resulted in scarring.
A man who wore the same lenses for two weeks was diagnosed with a perforated cornea, bacterial infection and ultimately required a transplant to save his right eye.
Six tales that should serve as warnings are the latest in a series on infections featured in the January issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine and developed through a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the EMERGEncy ID Net, an emergency department-based collaborative surveillance network.
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