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Contact Lens Wearers Probably Have Skin Bacteria Living on Their Eyes

A new study compared the bacteria in their eyes to the bacteria on their skin—and the results are pretty gross.

Over 30 million Americans wear contact lenses, according to statistics from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If you're one of 'em, this new American Society for Microbiology study may make you consider switching to glasses for a bit. 

Researchers analyzed samples of bacteria from study participants' (some wore contacts, others did not) eye surfaces, the skin under their eyes, and also contact lenses. They found that the bacteria on the surface of the eyes of contact wearers were similar to the span of bacteria found on your skin. “Ew” is an appropriate response.

In particular, contact lenses promoted higher percentages of the skin bacteria Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Methylobacterium, and Lactobacillus and lower proportions (compared to the previously mentioned) of Haemophilus, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and Corynebacterium. These names probably don’t mean much to you. You might not know how to pronounce them either. What you need to know is, “if these bacteria are transferred from the fingers to the lens and to the eye surface, or if the lenses exert selective pressures on the eye bacterial community in favor of skin bacteria… [there’s an] increased risk for eye infections," senior study author Maria Dominguez-Bello, Ph.D. said in a press release

Giant papillary conjunctivitis, a type of allergic reaction typically caused by contacts, and Keratitis, inflammation of the cornea, are the usual risk factors associated with contact lenses. But this research indicates some other cringe-worthy potential problems. Unfortunately the researchers say more research is needed before they can offer any concrete advice. 

Want to switch to glasses for a bit—or life? Read: What's the Best Pair of Eye Glasses for the Office, Bar, and Gym? 


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