Wearing contact lenses can allow a person freedom from wearing lasses every day or just during social or sports events. However, contact lenses are by no means a replacement for glasses completely. A back up pair of glasses is always necessary for those times when the contact lenses are removed. Up-to-date eyeglasses should be kept alsoin the event that a person’s eyes are bothered by seasonal allergies, a cold, or other irritant. Contact lenses can be safely worn by most people whose eyes are healthy enough for contact lens wear, which can only be determined by your doctor. Contact lenses should never be purchased in beauty supply stores, salons, or flea markets. A contact lens is a medical device, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and always requires an eye health evaluation in order to be safely worn.
If a contact lens fits the cornea or clear front surface of the eye too tightly, this can cause the oxygen to be cut off to the eye and cause swelling or edema that can blur vision. This is one reason contact lenses are prescribed by an eye doctor that has taken measurements of a person’s corneal curvature. This allows the doctor to determine the curvature the lens must be in order to fit correctly and not too tight or too loose. This is even more involved than it sounds and is vital to the patient maintaining eye health while wearing contact lenses. This process requires highly sensitive equipment and doctor’s time. As such, contact lens fitting fees may be a part of a patient’s eye exam.
Once a person has been prescribed a contact lens that fits their eye adequately, caring for the contact lenses properly is key to preventing everything from minor irritation to an eye infection. Disposable contact lenses are generally replaced every day, every 2 weeks, or every month. It is very important to know the recommended replacement schedule for your type of contact lens and to comply with it. Some people will wear their contact lenses as long as they feel moderately comfortable, and replace them only when the “feel old”. This creates the perfect environment for bacteria, protein, and debris to build up on a contact lens which can lead to an infection.
When a person wears a contact lens beyond the recommended replacement time, the buildup on it irritates the cornea and causes it to become inflamed. An inflammation of the cornea, or keratitis, can cause redness, tearing, light sensitivity and pain. Sometimes, white blood cells will accumulate and cause a white spot on the cornea that a person may be able to see on their eye. If left untreated it can scar, which may affect a person’s vision. A bacterial infection can cause an ulcer on the cornea which is usually very painful and can cause permanent damage to a person’s vision. You should never use tap water on your contact lenses or reuse solution as this can lead to a fungal infection that may be hard to treat and may require a corneal transplant.
Contact lenses generally are safe to wear and do not cause eye infections if proper hygiene is used and they are replaced as they should be. Sleeping in a contact lens can increase the likelihood of an infection more than any other factor. This is because oxygen is cut off to the eyes when they are closed and the contact lenses dry out overnight. A contact lens that is highly “breatheable” is best for a person that would like the option of sleeping in contact lenses. Not everyone can sleep in contact lenses comfortably. If your eye doctor has approved you for overnight wear, take it one night at a time and if you ever have any discomfort or pain, remove the lenses and call your eye doctor’s office right away.
Erin Mark, O.D.