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How to Keep Your Eyes Safe and Healthy While Using Contact Lenses?

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Approximately 6% of contact lens wearers per year will develop some problem associated with their use, although the majority of these problems will be fairly minor. Use of contact lenses as an alternative of glasses is not safe and there are some risk fac

Approximately 6% of contact lens wearers per year will develop some problem associated with their use, although the majority of these problems will be fairly minor. Use of contact lenses as an alternative of glasses is not safe and there are some risk factors involved we can still keep our eyes safe and healthy by getting knowledge of basic care, risk factors and precaution. This post is written to bring an awareness for contact lens wearers about the problems we can face due to some reasons and how we can keep our eyes healthy.

Contact lenses have provided an excellent alternative to glasses for correction of refractive errors. However, contact lens use is not without risk, and the potential for vision threatening problems is present. The wearing of contact lenses causes changes in the cornea in terms of structure, turnover, tear production and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. These changes in themselves can produce problems and may also exacerbate pre-existing conditions.

Contact lens related problems may be associated with the type of lens used (e.g. soft, rigid, gas permeable), the frequency with which the lenses are changed, the cleaning systems used for the lenses as well as wearer related factors. The range of problems which may occur include minor problems from inadequate rinsing to loss of vision as a result of microbial keratitis.

The risk factors of eye problems:

- The development of a corneal ulcer (an infection of the cornea) unfortunately can be a complication of contact lens use. Soft contact lenses have a higher risk of corneal ulcer than rigid lenses, but all lenses have some risk. Overwear of lenses, improper cleaning of lenses, extended wear use of lenses, and overly tight lenses may increase the risk of developing this surface breakdown. Normally, a corneal abrasion, even if tiny, is uncomfortable.

How to keep yourself safe from it?

A successfully treated corneal ulcer may still leave a scar which could affect the vision. It is important to avoid situations which can lead to corneal ulcer, such as overwear of lenses, poor disinfection techniques, and ignoring symptoms of pain or redness.

- Corneal Warpage; "Warpage" of the cornea refers to a distortion in the shape of the cornea, usually due to the use of rigid contact lenses, and especially poorly fitting rigid lenses.  A condition known as "irregular astigmatism" refers to an irregular curvature of the cornea, usually caused by poorly fitting rigid lenses.

- Corneal Swelling (edema): Corneal edema, or swelling, occurs when there is an inadequate supply of oxygen reaching the cornea due to contact lens wear. Essentially, the cornea becomes smothered by the lens. Sleeping in contact lenses, as with extended wear lenses, greatly increases the risk of corneal edema. In this situation, even less oxygen reaches the cornea because the eyelid is closed over it. Also, the normal blinking of the eye is not present, which helps tears and oxygen to circulate under the lens.

Symptoms of corneal edema included blurred or foggy vision, seeing rainbows around lights, redness, and possibly irritation or pain.

Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC)

- Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC) is a type of allergic reaction, usually to protein deposits on contact lenses.

Treatment: Regular enzyme treatments and proper contact lens cleaning techniques may reduce the chance of GPC. The use of preservative-free solutions can help as well. However, once GPC develops, the use of contact lenses often must be temporarily discontinued while the condition resolves. Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy eye medications may help to speed resolution and to ease symptoms. Frequent cases of GPC due to protein deposits on lenses may be prevented by using disposable lenses, since these do not have a chance to build up the deposits.

- Eye Redness: The development of eye redness with contact lens use is always a warning sign. At the least, it may mean that the lenses have been in too long, and should be removed. Eye redness associated with contact lens use should not be ignored, and the eye should be examined by an ophthalmologist to determine the cause.


Most problems associated with contact lenses are not serious and will resolve if the lens is removed for a period of time. Any contact lens wearer who presents with irritation of the eye should have:

Full history, especially with respect to previous ophthalmic history, type of lens, use of lens, type of cleaning solutions, other medications, history of allergy or atopy.

Examination of the eye with ophthalmoscope ± with a slit lamp, after staining. Examination of internal surface of eyelids for papilla formation.

Advice regarding removal of lens until problem has resolved, followed by repeat visit to optometrist to check fit/type/suitability of lens.

Treat corneal abrasions with topical antibiotics and cycloplegic agents. Topical steroids may be used on the advice of an ophthalmologist.

Prevention Tips:

  • It has been shown that about 80% of contact lens wearers are unaware of the risks associated with wear and specifically with poor contact lens hygiene. This has prompted some to suggest obtaining a formal consent before contact lenses are prescribed, with a clear explanation of the care and the risks.1 Issues that need addressing include:
  • Recommendations regarding length of use and cleaning regimes accurately.
  • Wearers should ensure that their hands are clean and free of other substances e.g. hand cream and that the room is well lit and a mirror available before inserting lenses.
  • Lenses should be protected from damage and extremes of temperature, and should not be worn if they become cloudy or damaged.
  • Regular review by an optician will allow for the early diagnosis of chronic problems such as neovascularisation.

Sources: 'Eye Disorders'

- 'Patient.co.uk'

Useful links and resources:

* A detailed report about  'Contact Lenses' at 'E Medicine Health'

* 'Tips for contact lenses wearers'

1 comment

lucia anna
Posted on Dec 8, 2010

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Amera Khanam

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