Contacts with water

By John Pastor • Published: July 8th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Veteran contact lens users routinely jump into the pool or even water ski with their lenses on. But they may be risking more than just losing their contacts in the water.

Some very bad bugs love to live on contact lenses.

And the problem is the germs are building muscle. A quick dip in disinfectant isn’t always enough to keep them down.

Health care professionals in the United Kingdom are finding one unpleasant bacterial strain is incredibly resistant to normal disinfectant solution. This strain causes microbial keratitis … a severe eye infection that attacks the cornea and can lead to vision loss.

The researchers tested nine different varieties of harmful bacteria for their ability to survive. Disinfectant cleaners made short work of most of the strains, washing them away within 10 minutes.

But the strain associated with the hardest to heal cases of keratitis was doing just swimmingly after four hours in the soup.

About 25,000 Americans develop keratitis annually. Ophthalmologists say the infection is serious. It can progress very rapidly with complete corneal destruction occurring within 24 to 48 hours.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say contact lens users can cut their risk by washing and drying their hands before touching their lenses, and by rubbing and rinsing their contacts to remove harmful microbes.

Storage cases should also be cleaned with solution and allowed to air dry between uses. Old solution should not be topped off in the case.

But about 36 million Americans wear contact lenses, and many of them do not remove their contacts before slipping into the pool or hot tub.

That sound like good news for keratitis … and bad news for eyes.