Bacteria, viruses, and fungi cause different types of eye infections, and all parts of the eye are vulnerable to infection. Symptoms such as redness, discharge, and irritation are telltale signs that your eye is infected.
Eye infections have various causes, and certain daily habits could boost your chances of developing one. Learn how these four bad habits put you at increased risk of getting an eye infection.
Sleeping in contact lenses
It may seem as though it’s not a big deal to snooze in your contact lenses, but we’re here to tell you that getting some shut-eye with your contact lenses in is a big no-no. Whenever we fit patients for contact lenses, we share important practices that can keep your eyes healthy, including taking your contact lenses out whenever you sleep.
Why is it a big deal? Sleeping with your contacts in reduces the amount of oxygen to your eye, which increases your risk of inflammation and infection. Having your eyes closed during sleep and your contact lenses in creates ideal conditions for pathogens to grow. For this reason, it’s a good rule of thumb to take your contact lenses out before sleeping, even for short naps.
Swimming and showering in contact lenses
Water and contact lenses are a bad combination. Pools, hot tubs, lakes, and oceans can harbor harmful bacteria that may cause serious infection. If you swim while wearing your contact lenses or water that contains bacteria gets into your eyes, pathogens can invade your cornea and cause a serious eye infection.
For example, Acanthamoeba keratitis is a serious, painful eye infection. Acanthamoeba are protozoa found in or near soil and water. Acanthamoeba keratitis may even lead to blindness. It’s best practice to remove your contact lenses when swimming, and even when taking a shower.
Most people rub their eyes without thinking about it — when your eyes are irritated or sometimes out of habit when you’re tired — and while it seems like a harmless habit, eye rubbing can increase your chances of developing an eye infection.
The problem is that rubbing your eyes can transfer dirt and bacteria from your hands to your eyes. Various bacteria live on your skin and are harmless when they remain where they should be. Trouble starts when bacteria that normally resides elsewhere in the body takes up residence in your eye.
It’s extremely easy to pick up bacteria from the environment, even if you’re an avid handwasher. What’s more, rubbing your eyes too often can increase the pressure in your eye and cause damage.
Wearing contacts too long
While extended-wear contacts are safe, wearing any lenses longer than intended raises the risk of developing an eye infection. Failing to follow the replacement schedule for your contact lenses sets the stage for a nasty infection.
Think of your contact lens as a sponge, similar to what you use in your kitchen. When you wear your contacts, they trap various contaminants. The longer you wear your contacts, the more contaminants accumulate in them. Over time, bacteria grows and contaminants increase; if you fail to replace them, your contacts become a haven for bacteria. This opens you to risk for potentially serious eye infections.
Eye infections typically resolve with minimal treatment, particularly if addressed right away. Occasionally, eye infections can lead to more serious issues. When it comes to keeping your eyes healthy, a comprehensive eye exam is the best place to start.
At Valley Eye Professionals, optometrists Dr. Barry Wagner and Dr. Narbae Avedian provide the highest quality eye care. Call our office in the Studio City area of Los Angeles at 818-208-2708 to schedule an appointment, or book online.