What Contact Lens Wearers Should Know About Keratitis


People choose contact lenses, which help millions of people across the globe to see, over eyeglasses for many reasons. Some don’t like wearing eyeglasses, while others find contact lenses more fashionable. Regardless of why someone wears contact lenses, they must recognize that contacts are not risk-free.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who wear contact lenses are at higher risk of developing keratitis than those who don’t. Understanding keratitis and how to prevent it can help contact lens wearers keep their eyes healthy.

Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea, which is the clear dome that covers the colored part of the eye. The risk for keratitis increases when contact lens wearers do not care for their lenses or supplies as directed. Microbial keratitis is a serious eye infection that can lead to blindness or the need for a corneal transplant.

There are many different types of keratitis, and symptoms may vary depending on which type a person is infected with. When a person is infected with keratitis, their cornea becomes inflamed or swollen. This affects vision, and can be intensely painful. The CDC notes that some additional symptoms of keratitis include redness in the affected eye; worsening pain in or around the eyes that continues even after contact lenses have been removed; sensitivity to light; sudden blurry vision; unusually watery eyes or discharge. People who have keratitis also may experience difficulty opening the affected eye or feel like something is in the eye.

The CDC says healthy habits and proper maintenance of contact lenses and supplies help prevent keratitis and other eye infections. The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these tips to take proper care of contact lenses.

  • Stick to the instructions. When prescribing contact lenses, doctors provide patients with schedules regarding wearing and replacing lenses. Strictly adhere to this schedule and follow all additional instructions. If you only periodically wear contact lenses, read the instructions regarding how to maintain them, as there may be different protocols regarding daily use compared to periodic use. 
  • Remember that water and contacts don’t mix. The AAO says contacts should always be removed when showering, swimming, using a hot tub, or doing any activity that involves water. 
  • Wash and dry hands properly. Wash hands with soap and water, and dry them with a lint-free towel before touching contact lenses. Additional instructions for how to put on and remove contact lenses are available at www.aao.org.  
  • Care for the contact case. The AAO recommends replacing your case at least once every three months. When cleaning, rinse it with a sterile contact lens solution and then leave the case open to air dry.

Keratitis is a potentially serious threat to people who wear contact lenses, but can often be prevented with some simple maintenance and safety protocols.