Sleeping wearing contact lenses carries infection risk

Posted Sep 16, 2018 by Tim Sandle
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) has highlighted a rise in health incidences associated with people wearing contact lenses while sleeping. This relates to corneal infections.
A contact lens.
A contact lens.
Bpw (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Contact lenses are classed as medical devices and although some are designed for 24-hour use, there has been a reported rise in infections in cases where people have worn lenses while sleeping.
The increase in the rate of infection has been tracked in the CDC’s publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The primary risk arises from a bacterial infection called microbial keratitis. Symptoms of this disease include pain, which can be moderate to severe; redness and photophobia, with discharge and blurred vision. In some cases there is also an awareness, by the sufferer, of white or yellow spot on cornea.
The two bacteria most commonly responsible for this type of infection are Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. There are also some cases the arise through fungal infections. Treatments take the form of antibiotic eye drop. However, the course of treatment can be lengthy.
The report highlights six cases, drawn from several thousand, of corneal infections that were related to contact lens wear, where each patient had slept while wearing their lenses. The patients range between 17 and 59 years old. Each person was treated with antibiotic eye drops. Two of the five required surgery, such was the extent of the damage caused by the bacterial infections.
Commenting on the rise in cases, Dr. Jennifer R. Cope, who works at the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, told Laboratory Roots: "This case series of contact lens-related corneal infections highlights the burden these infections place on contact lens wearers and the serious outcomes associated with them."
To help to promote the issue – and the safe practice of taking contact lenses out at night – the CDC is working with Eye and Contact Lens Association for Contact Lens Health in the U.S. The campaign discusses best practices for the care and cleaning of contact lenses.
With cleaning some people simply use tap water, rather than sterile solutions. Another issue of concern is with the quality of contact lenses. Lenses are supposed to be obtained from a reputable source via a prescription; however, a number are being purchased through online pharmacies. Based on this, the CDC is calling for greater health education.