LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Back to school can mean back to the eye doctor for contact lens wearers, at a tenfold risk for corneal ulcers.
Haley Armand, 22, of Sulphur, is a graduate student at Louisiana State University, putting in some long hours.
"I usually get up about five or six in the morning and I don't go to bed until eleven or later," she said.
Since fifth grade, Haley has picked contact lenses over glasses.
"I love just being able to wear my contacts and being able to look down and not have to move my whole head," she said.
That convenience has come with a consequence, though. The culprit? Overwear. Ophthalmologist and cornea specialist Charlie Thompson at The Eye Clinic says tiny tears to the cornea, the clear part of the front of the eye, can lead to big pain and infection.
"That little small scratch allows the bacteria to get within the tissue of the cornea and cause an infection," said Thompson.
The bacteria can be aggressive, leading to red eye, tears, pus or discharge and light sensitivity.
"It felt like a ton of nails just sticking in my eye," said Haley.
Thompson says the risk factors for developing a bacterial infection of the cornea are common in college students looking to save money.
"You have a contact lens overwearer or abuser who is wearing their lenses for prolonged periods throughout the day," said Dr. Thompson, "they're not taking them out at night, they reuse contact lens solution."
Just because a contact lens touts "night and day wear" does not mean it is safe to keep on your eyes 24 hours a day.
"I never think that that's a good idea, ever," said Thompson, "I've just seen too many problems from people that do that."
Haley's eye infection was cleared after a round of antibiotics and she is now paying more attention to what her eyes are telling her.
"I notice the signs more now," she said, "when I can start feeling one, I can just take the contacts out and maybe wear my glasses for a week or two."
Here is a look at how you can avoid painful corneal ulcers and infections:
*Take out contact lenses every night.
*Clean the contact lenses in new solution in a clean contact lens case.
*Do not make your own contact lens solution.