Serious problems with contact lenses are thankfully rare. However, they can crop up when the recommended hygiene procedures aren’t adhered to, or when contact lenses are not ordered through a registered optician.
Serious contact lens problems are thankfully rare, but they can crop up when the recommended hygiene procedures aren’t adhered to, or when contact lenses are not ordered through a registered optician.
Here are some of the most common contact lens problems and the steps you can take to avoid them in the future.
Signs You Might Have Problems With Your Contact Lenses
Some contact lens wearers can experience mild discomfort from their lenses, such as dry, itchy and/or red eyes. These symptoms usually improve once the lenses have been removed.
Some common symptoms of contact lens complications are:
- Burning, stinging or itching in your eye
- A gritty feeling
- Eye redness
- Blurry vision
- Eye discharge or watery eyes
- Sensitivity to light
These symptoms can sometimes be caused by dirty, dusty or damaged lenses, and inside-out lenses will cause the same discomforts but can easily be fixed by removing the lens and reinserting it the right way around.
However, if you’re experiencing contact lens discomfort regularly then you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to ensure you’re not suffering from a more serious eye condition.
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The Most Common Contact Lens Problems
More serious contact lens problems such as corneal infections are possible when good lens hygiene is consistently ignored, and recent horror stories such as corneal-eating amoeba causing blindness have been reported.
Here are some of the most common conditions assosciated with contact lens use.
Eye infections in contact lens wearers are usually caused by a bacterial infection, but they can also be caused by other kinds of germs.
In most cases, these infections lead to swelling in your cornea, which can cause scarring and vision loss if they’re not treated quickly.
A doctor will prescribe antibiotic eye drops to kill the bacteria causing the infection and alleviate the symptoms, but infections caused by fungi or amoebas can be severe and hard to treat, and they might require months of treatment and even surgery.
A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea, the clear dome-shaped covering that forms the outermost layer of your eyeball.
It usually results from an eye infection, but they can also be caused by severe dry eye or other eye disorders.
Learning to take care of your contacts, including safe handling, storage and cleaning, is an important step in reducing the likelihood of developing a corneal ulcer.
If you’re concerned you may have a corneal ulcer, or you are experiencing similar symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention – corneal ulcers can permanently damage your vision and even cause blindness if they are not treated.
Conjunctivitis, or “pinkeye” as it’s sometimes known, is a common infection that affects the eye causing redness and swelling of the eyelid.
The most common type of conjunctivitis, giant papillary conjunctivitis, is an allergic reaction to contact lenses.
If you wear contacts, you may experience allergic conjunctivitis symptoms if your contact lens irritates your eye or if you are exposed to a microorganism that causes your body to release antibodies against it.
Your doctor will likely suggest using topical steroids to reduce inflammation or anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen to eliminate pain.
They may also recommend switching to daily disposables or a different type of contact lens material if you have been wearing the same ones for a long time.
Each time you blink your eyelids, you spread tears across your cornea.
This simple action keeps your eyes moist and lowers your chances of infection, but if you do not produce enough tears or if they do not work as well as they should, your eyes can become dry and irritated.
Long-term use of contacts can contribute to this condition.
Artificial tears used to relieve dry eyes should be preservative-free; some preservatives are known to aggravate the condition further.
Using artificial tears while wearing contacts may cause those drops to be ineffective; so you’ll need to choose a product that is safe for use with contact lenses.
If over-the-counter drops do not sufficiently relieve your symptoms, consult with an eye doctor who can prescribe special eye drops and make other recommendations.
The cornea, the clear part of your eye that covers the iris and pupil, gets most of its oxygen from the air.
But contact lenses sit directly on top of the cornea and can block it from getting the oxygen it needs; this is called corneal hypoxia.
When this happens, your cornea may swell — and that can lead to more serious problems such as cloudy vision.
Corneal hypoxia is more common for people who use extended-wear contacts or who sleep with their contacts in.
Your eye doctor will probably recommend that you switch to a lens that lets more oxygen in and may give you a steroid to put into your eyes to ease swelling and keep hypoxia from getting worse.
Another common contact lens problem is a corneal abrasion, which is can be caused in a number of ways.
You might accidentally scrape your cornea with your finger when you’re removing a contact lens, the lens itself could be damaged, or, if it hasn’t been cleaned properly, it could have dirt or debris that will cause damage to the cornea.
A scratched cornea can heal in a few days, but left untreated it can lead to an infection in the eye that could permanently affect your vision, so check in with your eye doctor if your eye is painful, read and teary, and feels like there is grit in it.
In some rare instances, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to your contact lens solution, or even the lens itself.
If this is the case, you’ll need to try a different lens solution to see if the problem persists, otherwise you should discuss other options with your doctor.
How To Prevent Contact Lens Problems
There are some simple steps that should be followed when buying and using contacts to help keep your contact lens problem to a minimum. Nearly all of them are based on good hygiene practices.
Order From A Trusted Optician
Always order your contacts from a reputable and trusted optician. Cheap or poorly made lenses can lead to serious complications and can even cause blindness.
You should also keep on top of your regular check-ups to ensure your eyes are staying healthy.
Don’t Sleep In Your Contacts
Don’t fall asleep in your contacts and try to steer away from constant wear lenses.
Despite constant wear lenses being classified as safe to wear all day and night (you can sleep in them), your eyes require oxygen to stay healthy. Contacts essentially deprive your eyes of oxygen, so limiting the time lenses are worn is essential.
Wash Your Hands
Always wash your hands thoroughly when handling your lenses.
We recommend you use antibacterial, unperfumed hand soap to wash your hands and paper towels or kitchen rolls to dry them afterwards as some towels can leave tiny bits of fluff on your fingers, which make their way onto your lenses causing discomfort.
Try Eye Drops
If you find you’re suffering from dry eyes, try using contact lens-friendly eye drops.
These drops will provide instant relief from dry eyes, which can develop from heating, air conditioning, strong winds etc.
Wear Contact Lenses For The Correct Period
Always dispose of your lenses after the recommended time period.
For example, 30-day lenses should be disposed of after 30 days. Dailies should be disposed of at the end of the day and not re-worn.
These lenses aren’t designed for prolonged wear and can become damaged or split whilst you’re wearing them if you wear them for longer than stated.
If Your Contacts Are Painful, Remove Them
Always remove your lenses if your eyes become painful or irritated.
Keeping your lenses in once your eyes are irritated could lead to infections or scratched eye surfaces – it’s much safer to simply stop wearing them.
Check For Damage
Check your lenses each time you use them to spot any signs of damage. If they appear damaged, dispose of them immediately.
The Bottom Line
Contact lenses can be a great alternative to glasses, but there are risks involved.
Although many of these potential contact lens problems can be avoided by simply following good hygiene practices, the potential for permanent eye damage is higher than that of glasses wearers, and even laser eye surgery patients.
In fact, the risk of vision loss from contact lenses is actually 5 times higher than from having laser eye surgery.
If you’re finding did difficult to transition to contacts but don’t want to go back to glasses, then laser eye surgery could be the right choice for you.