This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 10, 2013.
If you’re one of the 36 million Americans who wears contact lenses, you probably think you do a pretty good job caring for them. But according to a study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, you almost certainly don’t.
Eighty-five percent of the 281 contacts wearers surveyed said they were compliant with their eye doctor’s wear and care recommendations, but when researchers questioned patients about specific practices, only 2 percent actually demonstrated good compliance.
The most common mistake was exposing contact lenses to water, either by wearing them while showering or swimming or using water instead of sterile saline solution to clean contacts. Microorganisms in non-sterilized water can lead to eye infections.
Other bad habits topping the list included sleeping in lenses, not washing hands before handling lenses and failing to replace the contacts case more than once annually. People also commonly reported using lenses longer than the number of days or months they’re designed for, and topping off old contacts solution with fresh instead of using entirely fresh solution. All of these practices, researchers say, increase a patient’s chances of eye infections or other contact lens complications.