Here’s what really happens when you stick your finger in your eye.
Because perfect eyesight is relatively rare and the cool-glasses look isn’t for everyone, contact lenses are a way of life for some 30 million Americans. And while they offer comfort, convenience, and the glorious gift of sight, there are also some downsides, like heightened risk of some serious eye infections. To better understand these risks, researchers from the New York University School of Medicine recently swabbed a bunch of people’s eye sockets to compare the bacterial diversity of contact-lens wearers and non-lens wearers.
Their findings: Lens wearers were more likely to have skin bacteria in their eyes, suggesting lenses change the eyeball environment to be more welcoming to all the icky stuff that can survive on say, a fingertip, like staph, strep, and a number of other potentially dangerous bacterium you probably can’t pronounce. It’s kind of like taking probiotics to alter the kinds of bacteria that live in your gut, but bad because it increases your risk of eye infection. It could be why lens wearers are more susceptible to infections that can even lead to blindness, particularly if you sleep in your lenses or store them improperly — two things you should never, ever do with your contacts.
To keep bacteria at bay when you don’t see glasses as an option, wash your hands like you mean it (with soap and water) before inserting or removing your lenses, take them out before you turn in at night, and avoid showering or swimming with lenses in. You’ll also want to rub, rinse, and store your contacts in fresh disinfectant solution (never water), clean your case with fresh solution after every use, and replace it every three months. And if you ever experience any pain, redness, blurred vision, or discomfort? Get in touch with your eye doctor ASAP, as the CDC recommends.