A new study says that close to one million Americans went to the emergency room or doctor’s office last year because of potentially blinding eye infections. The main culprit for these infections: contact lenses.

This isn’t simple pink eye but a severe inflammation of the cornea — the clear protective dome that sits over the colored part of your eye.

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The condition is called keratitis. It is the medical equivalent of rubbing your eye with sandpaper — a lot of pain, a lot of rawness.

Contacts

(credit: Dr. Dave Hnida)

And as more Americans use contacts, more are taking unhealthy shortcuts, so we are seeing more cases of keratitis.

Not only does keratitis make your eyes red, but it hurts. A lot. You can’t see, and in severe cases it can scar the cornea so you lose your vision.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control say there are a lot of reasons for all these cases of keratitis:

– Dirty fingers
– Poor handling of contacts
– Improper cleaning
– Improper storage
– Using a pair for more than its recommended shelf life
– Too much time on a computer or smartphone

So if you wear contacts and like having vision, here’s what to do:

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Wash your hands before touching your lenses. Your fingers are skuzzy.

Don’t lick and stick — no saliva or tap water to lube up dry lenses.

Don’t sleep with contacts in. Your corneas needs air.

Even take them out before showering.

Don’t just clean the contacts with cleaning solution. Clean the case.

Replace the cases at least every three months.

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It might also be a good idea to take a break when on the keyboard or using the smartphone. In any case, artificial tears for lubrication may be a good idea.