Let's talk about your eyeballs for a hot second. And some of the things that can go wrong with them.
For starters, KERATITIS is inflammation of the cornea — the outer layer of the eye. It can be as mild as general irritation, redness, and light sensitivity, or as serious as developing a corneal ulcer that may even lead to permanent sight problems.
Nearly 1 million people go to the doctor for keratitis in the United States each year, and 58,000 go to the ER, according to the CDC.
So it's not some weird, rare thing. It legit happens to a lot of people!
"It's a staggering number that's largely avoidable and preventable — the vast majority of keratitis is contact lens-related," Thomas Steinemann, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve, tells BuzzFeed Life.
Here are some dumb common things that a lot of people do that increase their risk of keratitis:
1. You sleep in your contacts sometimes.
2. You sleep in your contacts that are actually MADE to sleep in. Like, it says on the box you can sleep in them, and so you do.
3. You use the same pair of contacts for like months at a time, even though you know you should switch them every month (or every two weeks, or every day...)
4. You only change the solution in your contact lens case like every other week or so.
"A lot of studies indicate that the lens case is a breeding ground for infectious keratitis," Steinemann says. In fact, poor lens case hygiene increases your risk of microbial keratitis by 6.5 times, according to a paper published in the journal Ophthalmology.
Steinemann says that you should put fresh solution in your case every single day. After you stick your lenses in your eyes, dump out the old solution in your case, rinse the case out with the multipurpose solution, and then let it air dry. Then at night, put in new solution. And repeat each day.
5. You don't replace your contact lens case every six months like your doctor says you should.
6. You leave your contacts in for days at a time.
This is bad for the same reasons that sleeping in your contacts is bad: Contact lenses prevent oxygen from getting to your cornea (the outside layer of the eye). When it doesn't get enough oxygen, that can change the physiology of the cornea, Steinemann says. And when that happens, the germs and proteins and build-up on your dirty, dirty contact lenses are more likely to bind to the cornea, and potentially even invade. Not good at all! Many many more details on all this here, if you dare.
7. You are a little ~careless~ with your costume novelty contacts.
OK, enough about keratitis. There's something else you should be aware of: AMOEBAS.
Don't completely freak out — these cases are reportedly about one in a million rare. BUT. They're also basically all almost completely preventable.
So they're pretty incredibly uncommon but also super easy to avoid... so you do the math. Steinemann feels strongly about this:
"It's a devastating, painful infection, and you want to do everything you can not to go there. And you can avoid it with some good habits," he says.
Or at least by avoiding bad habits, like these: