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August 25, 2017

You're probably using contact lenses all wrong, CDC warns

Daily Briefing

A majority of individuals who wear contact lenses engage in at least one behavior that puts them at risk of a serious eye infection, according CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).  

Prevent an infection: Get 3 top investments to support best practice quality and efficiency

For the report, CDC researchers used nationally representative data from 2016 for 4,548 U.S. adults ages 18 and older and 1,618 U.S. adolescents 12 to 17 years old.  


Based on the data, the researchers estimated that 14.5 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17, 24.4 percent of young adults ages 18 to 24, and 15.5 percent of adults ages 25 and older in the United States wore contact lenses in 2016.

Of those individuals, the researchers found a majority engaged in at least one behavior that put them at risk for a serious eye infection, including:

  • 87.5 percent of adults ages 25 and older;
  • 85.3 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17; and
  • 80.9 percent of young adults ages 18 to 24.

According to the report, the most common risky behaviors across all age groups were sleeping, napping, or swimming while wearing contact  lenses and waiting too long to replace contact lenses and contact lens cases. However, the researchers found adolescents were more likely than adults to:

  • Not visit an eye doctor annually;
  • Mix old and new contact solution in cases; and
  • Store or rinse lenses in tap water.

Adults, both young and older, were more likely than adolescents to report experiencing a red or painful eye that required a visit to an eye care professional. Specifically, researchers found:

  • 14.6 percent of young adults, or 1.1 million, had such an experience;
  • 11.4 percent of older adults, or 3.9 million, had such an experience; and
  • 4.2 percent of adolescents, or 152,000, had such an experience.


The researchers wrote that the "findings might reflect the fact that most adolescents are still living with their parents who might help to reinforce good contact lens hygiene practices whereas young adults might have recently left home and are no longer subject to parental reminders." The researchers said, "Young adults also might have fewer resources … to regularly visit eye care providers and obtain hygiene education or regularly replace contact lenses, lens storage cases, and solution." The researchers added that the "higher percentage of young adults [who] reported ever having a red or painful eye while wearing contact lenses … suggest[s] that poor hygiene practices might lead to complications."

Jennifer Cope, a CDC medical epidemiologist, said, "Contact lenses are a safe and effective way to correct your vision when they are worn and cared for as recommended," but "adolescents and adults can improve the way they take care of their contact lenses to reduce their risk of serious eye infections" (Welch, CBS News, 8/17; Phillips, Medscape, 8/17; Fox, NBC News/Today, 8/17; Thielking, "Morning Rounds," STAT News, 8/18).

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