Fast Facts

Who Uses Contact Lenses
  • An estimated 45 million people in the U.S. wear contact lenses 1.
  • Two-thirds of contact lens wearers are female 1.
  • The average age of contact lens wearers worldwide is 31 years old 2.
  • An estimated 8% of contact lens wearers are under 18 years old, 17% are between ages 18-24, and 75% of adults age 25 and older wear contacts 1.
Contact Lenses in the U.S.
  • Contact lenses are medical devices and are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act 3.
  • Rigid, or hard, contact lenses made from plastic were first produced in the U.S. between 1938-1940 4.
  • Soft contact lenses were first introduced to the U.S. in 1971 5.
  • Ninety percent of contact lens wearers use soft contact lenses 1.
Benefits of Contact Lens Use
  • People can use many different methods to improve their vision, and no single method is the best solution for everyone. Contact lenses are one of several effective options.
  • Contact lenses can help people see better without affecting their appearance or interfering with many sports and activities.
  • Some children and teens report feeling dramatically better about their appearance when wearing contact lenses 6, 7.
  • Compared to wearing glasses, children switching to contact lenses reported significant improvements in the areas of perceived appearance, participation in activities, and satisfaction with vision correction 7.
  • Specially designed contact lenses can improve the ability to focus and temporarily reduce poor distance vision (near-sightedness) in certain contact lens wearers 3, 8.
Complications & Risk Factors
  • Serious eye infections that can lead to blindness affect up to 1 out of every 500 contact lens users per year 9.
  • Not following proper contact lens care instructions has been linked to outbreaks of serious eye infections 10.
  • Between 40%-90% of contact lens wearers do not properly follow the care instructions for their contact lenses 11.
  • Approximately 99% of respondents reported at least one contact lens hygiene behavior previously associated with an increased risk of eye infection or inflammation 1.
  • Improper cleaning and irregular replacement of contact lenses and contact lens cases—as well as other behaviors relating to contact lens hygiene and care—have been linked to a higher risk of complications 11-13.
  • Keratitis—a painful eye infection often linked to improper contact lens use—leads to 1 million doctor and hospital visits annually, at a cost of $175 million to the US healthcare system 14.

Keep your eyes healthy while wearing contact lenses by following these tips, and always be sure to carry a pair of glasses with you—just in case you have to take out your contact lenses.

  1. Cope JR, Collier SA, Nethercut H, Jones JM, Yates K, Yoder JS. Risk Behaviors for contact lens–related eye infections among adults and adolescents — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66(32):841-5.
  2. Morgan PB, Woods CA, Tranoudis IG, Helland M, Efron N, Orihuela GC, Grupcheva CN, Jones D, Kah-Ooi T, Pesinova A, Ravn O, Santodomingo J, Malet F, Sze L, Cheng P, Végh M, Erdinest N, Ragnarsdóttir JB, Montani G, Davila-Garcia E, Motozumi I, Byoung SC, Bendoriene J, Worp E. International contact lens prescribing in 2012.external icon Contact Lens Spectrum, 2013.
  3. FDA. Focusing on contact lens safety.external icon 2008.
  4. Bailey, N.J. Neal Bailey’s contact lens chronicle. Contact Lens Spect. 1987;2:2-64.
  5. Epstein, A.B. In the aftermath of the Fusarium keratitis outbreak: What have we learned?external icon Clin Ophthalmol. 2007;1(4):355-66.
  6. Walline JJ, Gaume A, Jones LA, Rah MJ, Manny RE, Berntsen DA, Chitkara M, Kim A, Quinn N. Benefits of contact lens wear for children and teens.external icon Eye Contact Lens. 2007;33(6 Pt 1):317-21.
  7. Rah MJ, Walline JJ, Jones-Jordan LA, Sinnott LT, Jackson JM, Manny RE, Coffey B, Lyons S; ACHIEVE Study Group. Vision specific quality of life of pediatric contact lens wearers.external icon Optom Vis Sci. 2010;87(8):560-6.
  8. Cho P, Boost M, Cheng R. Non-compliance and microbial contamination in orthokeratology.external icon Optom Vis Sci. 2009;86(11):1227-34.
  9. Dart JK, Radford CF, Minassian D, Verma S, Stapleton F. Risk factors for microbial keratitis with contemporary contact lenses: a case-control study.external icon Ophthalmology. 2008;115(10):1647-54, 1654 e1-3.
  10. Verani JR, Lorick SA, Yoder JS, Beach MJ, Braden CR, Roberts JM, Conover CS, Chen S, McConnell KA, Chang DC, Park BJ, Jones DB, Visvesvara GS, Roy SL; Acanthamoeba Keratitis Investigation Team. National outbreak of Acanthamoeba keratitis associated with use of a contact lens solution, United States.external icon Emerg Infect Dis. 2009;15(8):1236-42.
  11. Bui TH, Cavanagh HD, Robertson DM. Patient compliance during contact lens wear: perceptions, awareness, and behavior.external icon Eye Contact Lens. 2010;36(6):334-9.
  12. Dumbleton KA, Woods CA, Jones LW, Fonn D. The relationship between compliance with lens replacement and contact lens-related problems in silicone hydrogel wearers.external icon Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2011;34(5):216-22.
  13. Stapleton F, Edwards K, Keay L, Naduvilath T, Dart JK, Brian G, Holden B. Risk factors for moderate and severe microbial keratitis in daily wear contact lens users.external icon Ophthalmology. 2012;119(8):1516-21.
  14. Collier SA, Gronostaj MP, MacGurn AK, Cope JR, Awsumb KL, Yoder JS, Beach MJ. Estimated burden of keratitis — United States, 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63(45):1027-30.
Page last reviewed: December 30, 2021