By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor

On November 10, BuzzFeed posted a poll: How Gross is Your Contact Lens Hygiene? The responses from more than 50,000 contact lens wearers were terrifying. Because numbers speak louder than words in this case, here are the results.

12% admitted to reinserting a dropped contact lens without rinsing it (Must have been desperation.)
64% slept without removing their lenses (Presume there were a least some extended wearers in this response.)
17% slept in their lenses for more than two consecutive nights (As above.)
12% licked a contact lens and reinserted it (Unbelievable!)
26% have worn torn lenses (Very high pain tolerance?)
42% change their lenses only when they hurt or are lost (Thrifty or lazy?)
58% over wear their lenses by more than a week (Just forgot?)
45% over wear their lenses by more than two weeks (Not a memory problem!)
5% tried someone else’s contact lenses (At least there’s some common sense.)
43% reused contact lens solution (About the same number don’t change their lenses.)
6% have made their own contact lens solution (Too much work – just reuse the solution!)
43% touch their contact lenses to readjust them (OK if they wash their hands, but see the next question.)
41% don’t wash their hands before handling their contact lenses (Hopeless!)

Considering the number of responses, even if some people responded as a joke, we can still presume there are thousands of contact lens abusers out there! When patients come in for a contact lens exam, we can ask all the right questions about contact lens care while they smile and nod. Of course they’re compliant! But, a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC shows that more than 80 percent of contact lens wearers reported at least one behavior that put them at risk for a contact lens-related eye infection. The report broke down the rates by age groups, where 85 percent of adolescents (ages 12-17), 81 percent of young adults (ages 18-24), and 88 percent of older adults (ages 25 and older) practiced unsafe contact lens use. It’s interesting to note that the adult group, whom you would expect to know better, edged out the younger offenders. And it isn’t a stretch in logic to presume that many contact lens wearers have more than one bad habit.

ECPs, don’t despair. In light of this pervasive problem, there is research and development on antimicrobial contact lens materials and accessories including cases and solutions. In the interim, we must persevere with educating every patient at every visit. Signage and guides promoting healthy contact lens use are available from government agencies and contact lens manufacturers to help us reinforce the message.
Learn about starting young patients off to healthy contact lens wear with our CE, Kids, Contacts and Quality of Life at