11 Things Contact Lens Wearers Should Never Do

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More than 30 million people in the U.S. wear contacts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they take care of them quite as carefully as they’re supposed to. If you’ve worn contacts all your life and have never gotten an eye infection, you may think you’re a pro—but you’re probably putting your eyes at risk in at least one way, if not more.

Studies routinely find that eye patients don’t take care of their contact lenses exactly as they should, and may not even know they’re slacking. One 2011 study found that 85 percent of eye patients surveyed perceived themselves as compliant with the proper contact lens care practices, but in reality, only 0.4 percent were fully compliant. (The study was comprised of just 281 people, so that meant only one single person followed the proper procedures.)

There are plenty of ways you can put your eyes at risk when you wear contact lenses, some of which you might not even realize are dangerous. Here are 11 things you should never do with your contacts.

1. DON’T LET THEM COME INTO CONTACT WITH WATER …

The water in a swimming pool, a lake, the ocean, or even inside your home isn’t sterile, and that can mean bad news if that water gets under your contacts. People don't “really realize it could be a sight threatening move” to swim in contacts, optometrist Ceri Smith-Jaynes, a spokesperson for the UK-based Association of Optometrists who has been practicing for 20 years, tells Mental Floss. And it's not because they might float away: Soft contacts can change shape when wet, which can sometimes cause micro-abrasions on the cornea. And if that's not horrifying enough, there's an amoeba called Acanthamoeba that can live even in chlorinated water—and if it gets under your contacts, it can use the micro-abrasions to burrow inside your cornea, causing infection.

While rare, the infection is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and you can eventually lose your eye. (Smith-Jaynes just saw her first case of it in her professional career—the woman is expected to be fine, but had to spend weeks in the hospital putting in eyedrops every hour.) And even if you aren’t exposed to Acanthamoeba, there can still be other germs in water that contact lens solution can’t kill, so if you do break the rules and take a dive in your contacts, you should throw those lenses out immediately after. If you’re a passionate swimmer, you can always get prescription goggles.

Yes, your optometrist knows you probably go to the swimming pool and the beach in your contacts, despite their warnings. “I know my patients do it,” Smith-Jaynes says. “I’ve actually bumped into [a patient] and they recognized me—and they shouldn’t have, because I know how short-sighted they are.”

2. … SERIOUSLY, ANY WATER. OR ANY OTHER LIQUID, FOR THAT MATTER.

That means you should only touch your contact lenses if your hands are completely dry. In general, don’t let anything touch your contacts that doesn’t explicitly state it’s made for contact lenses. Saline solution won’t cut it, and neither will regular eye drops. Stick to solutions and drops that explicitly say “for contacts” on the bottle.

3. DON’T PUT THEM IN BEFORE YOU START YOUR MORNING ROUTINE …

As nice as it is to be able to read the shampoo bottle, you shouldn’t put your contacts in before you shower or wash your face, because—you guessed it—of the risk of exposing your lenses to tap water. You should also wait to put them in after you blow dry your hair or apply hairspray, because those can dry out your lenses.

4. … BUT DON'T WAIT UNTIL AFTER YOU APPLY MAKEUP.

You should put your contacts in before you put on your makeup, or risk damaging your lenses. If you have any makeup residue on your hands after you finish perfecting your eyeliner or contouring, and then you put in your contacts, you could get that on your lenses.

Avoid waterproof makeup, because if that gets on your contacts, the oils in it can’t be washed away by blinking. That could potentially cause your contacts to blur or damage the surface of the lens. Even if you wash your contacts with solution later, contact solution isn’t designed to clean up those types of oils, and it may not entirely remove them.

Wearing contacts may also inhibit certain looks, unfortunately. You shouldn’t apply mascara all the way from the base of your lashes up, since you are more likely to get makeup in your eye that way. Instead, apply it from the midway point. And you shouldn’t use eyeliner on the inner lid of your eye. Apply it to the skin above your lashes instead.

5. DON’T SLEEP IN THEM (UNLESS YOUR DOCTOR SAYS IT’S OK).

Sleeping in your contacts can lead to infection, too. Most contact-wearers know whether or not they’re allowed to sleep in their specific lenses, but you might not realize how risky wearing non-approved lenses to bed can be. “You’re greatly risking your sight” by sleeping in a lens that’s not approved for overnight use, Smith-Jaynes says. Because you don’t blink in your sleep, tears aren’t washing under your lenses, and your eye isn’t getting enough oxygen, both of which make it easier to get an infection. Sleeping in your contacts can lead to complications like corneal ulcers or a condition known as Contact Lens Induced Acute Red Eye (CLARE).

6. DON’T PUT YOUR DIRTY HANDS ON THEM.

You shouldn’t stick your dirty fingers in your eyes, period, but you definitely shouldn’t touch your contacts with them, for all of the usual reasons involving bacteria, oils, and other gross, damaging substances. You should always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before you touch your lenses.

7. DROPPED YOUR CONTACT? DON'T PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH AND THEN BACK IN YOUR EYE.

Every once in a while, one of your contact lenses might come out in a public place, but you really shouldn’t root around on the floor trying to find it and put it straight back in—even if it means not being able to see for a while. If you do find the missing lens, don’t rinse it with tap water, and definitely don’t put it in your mouth. Ideally, you should just throw it away. To stay on the safe side, carry around an emergency pair of glasses or pair of disposable lenses in your bag or your car, or stash them in your desk at work.

“Most soft lenses are monthly or daily disposable so, if this unlikely event happens, you’re better off disposing of it and opening a new one,” Smith-Jaynes says. “It’s not worth trying to be thrifty here.” If you wear hard lenses and can’t throw them away immediately, inspect the dropped lens very carefully for scratches. If it looks like it made it through unscathed, you’ll want to disinfect it fully, including rubbing and rinsing it with solution and letting it soak overnight, before you think about putting it back in your eye.

8. DON’T WEAR A RIPPED LENS.

Besides being terribly uncomfortable, there’s a more serious reason to immediately toss a torn lens, even if it means being unable to see for the rest of the day. The jagged edge of the ripped lens can scratch your cornea. And because the lens won’t hold its regular shape, it won’t fit against your eye the same way, and is more likely to move around and possibly tear further, leaving you with bits of contact lens in your eye.

9. DON’T USE THE SAME CASE FOREVER.

You should be as careful with your lens case as you are with your contacts themselves. In order to minimize the bacteria and fungi that build up on the case, you need to rinse it out regularly with solution, then leave it open and upside down to dry fully. Whatever you do, don't rinse out your case with tap water—that has been linked to that nasty Acanthamoeba infection—and don't rinse out your case and then close it right back up without allowing it to dry—that creates a wet, dark environment for bacteria to grow (especially if you're using something other than solution). By the time you get back to it, it will be dirtier than it was before you rinsed it.

Even if you’re taking good care of your case, you need to toss it and get a new one regularly. If you change your lenses monthly, you should change cases then, too. After that, lens cases can start to develop a biofilm of bacteria and fungi, and if you store your contacts in there, you’re putting yourself at risk of infection.

10. DON’T WEAR THEM FOR TOO LONG.

Just because you can still see clearly out of your contact lenses doesn’t mean you should can keep using them for longer than you’re supposed to. If you wear your daily-use or weekly-use contacts for a month, it can, in the worst cases, lead to serious complications like scarring of the cornea and loss of vision. Daily disposable lenses, for instance, are made of a thinner material than contacts designed for longer use, and they're not made to allow the right amount of oxygen and moisture into your eye for an entire month. The few dollars you might save by not opening a new pack aren't worth the damage it can cause.

11. DON’T WEAR THEM WHEN SOMETHING IS WRONG.

If your eyes feel uncomfortable, don’t power through it; go see your doctor. If you notice any pain or redness in your eyes, take your contacts out and consult an optometrist. You don't want to let a serious infection go unchecked.

7 Facts About Blood

Moussa81/iStock via Getty Images
Moussa81/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone knows that when you get cut, you bleed—a result of the constant movement of blood through our bodies. But do you know all of the functions the circulatory system actually performs? Here are some surprising facts about human blood—and a few cringe-worthy theories that preceded the modern scientific understanding of this vital fluid.

1. Doctors still use bloodletting and leeches to treat diseases.

Ancient peoples knew the circulatory system was important to overall health. That may be one reason for bloodletting, the practice of cutting people to “cure” everything from cancer to infections to mental illness. For the better part of two millennia, it persisted as one of the most common medical procedures.

Hippocrates believed that illness was caused by an imbalance of four “humors”—blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. For centuries, doctors believed balance could be restored by removing excess blood, often by bloodletting or leeches. It didn’t always go so well. George Washington, for example, died soon after his physician treated a sore throat with bloodletting and a series of other agonizing procedures.

By the mid-19th century, bloodletting was on its way out, but it hasn’t completely disappeared. Bloodletting is an effective treatment for some rare conditions like hemochromatosis, a hereditary condition causing your body to absorb too much iron.

Leeches have also made a comeback in medicine. We now know that leech saliva contains substances with anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anesthetic properties. It also contains hirudin, an enzyme that prevents clotting. It lets more oxygenated blood into the wound, reducing swelling and helping to rebuild tiny blood vessels so that it can heal faster. That’s why leeches are still sometimes used in treating certain circulatory diseases, arthritis, and skin grafting, and helps reattach fingers and toes. (Contrary to popular belief, even the blood-sucking variety of leech is not all that interested in human blood.)

2. Scientists didn't understand how blood circulation worked until the 17th century.

William Harvey, an English physician, is generally credited with discovering and demonstrating the mechanics of circulation, though his work developed out of the cumulative body of research on the subject over centuries.

The prevailing theory in Harvey’s time was that the lungs, not the heart, moved blood through the body. In part by dissecting living animals and studying their still-beating hearts, Harvey was able to describe how the heart pumped blood through the body and how blood returned to the heart. He also showed how valves in veins helped control the flow of blood through the body. Harvey was ridiculed by many of his contemporaries, but his theories were ultimately vindicated.

3. Blood types were discovered in the early 20th century.

Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner discovered different blood groups in 1901, after he noticed that blood mixed from people with different types would clot. His subsequent research classified types A, B and O. (Later research identified an additional type, AB). Blood types are differentiated by the kinds of antigens—molecules that provoke an immune system reaction—that attach to red blood cells.

People with Type A blood have only A antigens attached to their red cells but have B antigens in their plasma. In those with Type B blood, the location of the antigens is reversed. Type O blood has neither A nor B antigens on red cells, but both are present in the plasma. And finally, Type AB has both A and B antigens on red cells but neither in plasma. But wait, there’s more! When a third antigen, called the Rh factor, is present, the blood type is classified as positive. When Rh factor is absent, the blood type is negative.

Scientists still don’t understand why humans have different blood types, but knowing yours is important: Some people have life-threatening reactions if they receive a blood type during a transfusion that doesn’t “mix” with their own. Before researchers developed reliable ways to detect blood types, that tended to turn out badly for people receiving an incompatible human (or animal!) blood transfusion.

4. Blood makes up about 8 percent of our total body weight.

Adult bodies contain about 5 liters (5.3 quarts) of blood. An exception is pregnant women, whose bodies can produce about 50 percent more blood to nourish a fetus.)

Plasma, the liquid portion of blood, accounts for about 3 liters. It carries red and white blood cells and platelets, which deliver oxygen to our cells, fight disease, and repair damaged vessels. These cells are joined by electrolytes, antibodies, vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients required to maintain all the other cells in the body.

5. A healthy red blood cell lasts for roughly 120 days.

Red blood cells contain an important protein called hemoglobin that delivers oxygen to all the other cells in our bodies. It also carries carbon dioxide from those cells back to the lungs.

Red blood cells are produced in bone marrow, but not everyone produces healthy ones. People with sickle cell anemia, a hereditary condition, develop malformed red blood cells that get stuck in blood vessels. These blood cells last about 10 to 20 days, which leads to a chronic shortage of red blood cells, often causing to pain, infection, and organ damage.

6. Blood might play a role in treating Alzheimer's disease.

In 2014, research led by Stanford University scientists found that injecting the plasma of young mice into older mice improved memory and learning. Their findings follow years of experiments in which scientists surgically joined the circulatory systems of old and young mice to test whether young blood could reverse signs of aging. Those results showed rejuvenating effects of a particular blood protein on the organs of older mice.

The Stanford team’s findings that young blood had positive effects on mouse memory and learning sparked intense interest in whether it could eventually lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related conditions.

7. The sight of blood can make people faint.

For 3 to 4 percent of people, squeamishness associated with blood, injury, or invasive medical procedures like injections rises to the level of a true phobia called blood injury injection phobia (BII). And most sufferers share a common reaction: fainting.

Most phobias cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and often muscle tension, shakes, and sweating: part of the body’s sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response. But sufferers of BII experience an added symptom. After initially increasing, their blood pressure and heart rate will abruptly drop.

This reaction is caused by the vagus nerve, which works to keep a steady heart rate, among other things. But the vagus nerve sometimes overdoes it, pushing blood pressure and heart rate too low. (You may have experienced this phenomenon if you’ve ever felt faint while hungry, dehydrated, startled, or standing up too fast.) For people with BII, the vasovagal response can happen at the mere sight or suggestion of blood, needles, or bodily injury, making even a routine medical or dental checkup cause for dread and embarrassment.

9 Surprising Facts About the Scientific Study of Sex

vadimguzhva/iStock via Getty Images
vadimguzhva/iStock via Getty Images

The scientific study of sex is much more exciting than an awkward sex ed class. While writing my book Sex Weird-o-Pedia, these were some of the most interesting facts about science and sex that I came across.

1. Some sex researchers didn't want their findings to get into the wrong hands.

The pioneering sex researcher Richard von Krafft-Ebing didn’t want his knowledge in the hands of ordinary folk. So he wrote Psychopathia Sexualis, the founding document of modern sexology—which was published in Germany in 1886 then translated and published in English in 1939—in Latin to discourage regular Joes (and/or Janes) from reading it.

2. You burn more calories mowing the lawn than you do having sex.

Young woman poses for selfie while mowing the lawn
Alina Rosanova/iStock via Getty Images

Sex might seem strenuous when things get hot and heavy, but it's usually not that great of a workout. You'd have to go at it for nearly 200 minutes to burn as much energy having sex as you do during a 30-minute run. Even mowing the lawn burns about three times more calories than sex. According to the British Heart Foundation, sex burns about the same amount of energy per minute as ironing clothes.

3. A surprising number of mothers claim to be virgins.

In a 2013 study of several thousand pregnant women in the U.S. published by BMJ, about 1 percent of the participants claimed they were virgins when they gave birth. This, of course, calls into question the veracity of studies that rely on self-reported sexual behaviors.

4. Penicillin may have ignited the sexual revolution.

One economist says that penicillin, and not the birth control pill, was the real enabler of the sexual revolution. A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2013 shows that penicillin contributed to a 75 percent decline in the number of deaths caused by syphilis from 1947 to 1957. Since the new treatment made sex safer, people started having riskier sex, which resulted in increases in the numbers of children born out of wedlock and teenage pregnancies.

5. Twins can have different dads.

A photo of fraternal twins
Aleksandr Zhurilo/iStock via Getty Images

While it is very rare, it is possible for fraternal twins to have two different fathers. What’s more common is for a rom-com to be based on this scenario.

6. Gender may influence how people handle sexual jealousy.

Research from evolutionary psychologists indicates that people’s gender influences how they react to sexual jealousy. For men, they react more strongly to sexual unfaithfulness than emotional infidelity. For women, it is the reverse. The theory behind these behaviors comes back to evolution: Males who were intolerant toward their wives becoming sexually active with other men were less likely to become an object of derision and more likely to see their own genes pass onto future generations. Women who prevented their husbands from emotionally bonding with other women reduced the chances of the men spending their resources on other women.

7. One of Ivan Pavlov's colleagues created his own (slightly x-rated) conditioning experiment with dogs.

You’re probably aware of Russian researcher Ivan Pavlov and his famous conditioning experiment in which he trained a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell. What you might not know is that one of Pavlov’s American students, W. Horsley Gantt, conditioned dogs to become sexually aroused when they heard specific tones. The experiment, according to Mandy Merck's In Your Face: 9 Sexual Studies, was intended "to study conflicts of the drives between ... experimentally induced anxiety states and sexual excitement."

8. Couples whose first child is a girl are more likely to get divorced.

Parents pay attention to their phones instead of their daughter
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Married couples whose first child is a girl are more likely to get divorced than those whose first child is a boy. Scientists are split as to why this is. One theory is that female embryos are better able to endure maternal stress than male embryos, so pregnant women in unhappy marriages are less likely to have a miscarriage if the child they are bearing is a girl. But once they have a daughter, these couples are more likely to split up since there were already fissures in their relationship prior to the child’s birth.

9. There's a link between pubic hair and STIs.

A downside of pubic grooming is that it might raise STI risk. In a study conducted by a University of Texas scholar, people who regularly shaved their pubic areas contracted STIs about 80 percent more often than those who never shaved down there. One suggestion is that those who regularly shave are more likely to tear their skin, making it easier for viruses to enter the body.

Ross Benes is the author of Sex Weird-o-Pedia: The Ultimate Book of Shocking, Scandalous, and Incredibly Bizarre Sex Facts.

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