Most people wouldn’t consider contact lenses dangerous. In fact, they are a great alternative to glasses, offering convenience and great vision for those who wear them. However, when not obtained and used according to an eye doctor’s instructions, the consequences can be devastating.
Contact Lenses Need to Fit
Like shoes, one size of contact lens does not fit all. Even daily disposable contact lenses need a proper lens fitting, as lens materials and curvatures vary from one brand to the next. Often patients that complain of contact lenses that feel dry within a couple hours of applying them are actually wearing contact lenses that are not an ideal fit. Many factors can affect a lens fit, including growth, allergies, medications, hormone changes, and others. Sensitivities to eye drops and cleaning solutions may also affect comfortable contact lens wear.
The Dangers of Contact Lens Use
We all know how uncomfortable it is when there is a foreign object in our eye. The tearing and watering that occurs as the eye’s natural attempt to remove foreign matter displays the eye’s sensitivity compared to other parts of the body. Any time a foreign object comes into contact with the eye (even your finger), there is a risk to the eye - and that risk includes contact lenses. Improper hygiene and use of contact lenses can scratch the surface or bring bacteria into the eye which can lead to serious infections and permanent damage to the eye and vision.
According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 20% of patients that reported infections of the cornea related to contact lenses had a corneal scar, a decrease in visual acuity or needed a corneal transplant as a result of the infection. Further, 25% of infections involved poor contact lens hygiene, which means they likely could have been prevented.
Dangerous Behaviors that Put Contact Lens Users At Risk
Here are some of the most dangerous contact lens habits that should be avoided to eliminate your risk of eye damage or a potentially blinding eye infection.
- Failing to wash your hands with soap and dry them before applying or removing lenses.
- Rinsing contacts or your lens case with tap water, sterile water or other substances.
- Re-using solution or topping off the solution in your lens case rather than emptying it, cleaning it and refilling it.
- Failing to remove lenses before swimming or entering a hot tub.
- Leaving in contact lenses too long or sleeping in contacts that are not meant to sleep in.
- Failing to follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your eye doctor.
- Using the same lens case for too long (it should be cleaned regularly and replaced around every three months).
- Wearing lenses that are not obtained with a prescription through an eye doctor or legally authorized contact lens distributor.
- Ironically, as you can see, water is one of the biggest dangers for contact lens wearers at it can harbor dangerous bacteria under the lens or in a contaminated lens case. These dangers can be easily avoided by following your eye doctor’s instructions in handling and wearing your contact lenses.
Cosmetic/Decorative Contact Lenses
With Halloween on the way it’s important to stress that you should ONLY purchase contact lenses from an eye doctor or legally authorized contact lens seller with a prescription. Even if you are purchasing purely decorative contact lenses with no vision correction, you need a doctor to measure your eye to ensure they fit properly. Contact lenses are a medical device and it is illegal to sell them without proper authorization. Therefore you should never purchase them from a costume or party store - these are unregulated and could cause serious harm to your eyes and vision.
If you notice any unusual redness, discharge, crusting, light sensitivity or pain, immediately remove your contact lenses and go see your eye doctor as soon as possible. Some serious eye infections can cause permanent vision damage or blindness even within a day or two.
While you should not approach contact lens use as a dangerous activity, it is important to understand the importance of proper hygiene and use. As long as you obtain contact lenses safely and follow the instructions of your eye doctor, contact lenses are a safe, convenient and effective option for vision correction.