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Are contact lenses as safe as you believe them to be?

1 out of every 500 contact lens users develops serious eye infections per year*

As a man who has been wearing glasses for decades now, let me tell you that wearing glasses all day is not easy. For some, it might as well be highly uncomfortable and even frustrating. Frankly, who likes them making your vision all foggy while enjoying a cup of tea? Or not letting you wear those cool sunglasses on a vacation? There are many reasons why many people prefer contact lenses over spectacles for vision correction.

Contact lenses have been around for years, and today, markets offer many variants for buyers to pick from. With their ease of use and seamless experience, contacts have made lives a lot easier for people with vision defects. But, are they truly as harmless as they seem?

Irritation, dry eyes, eye allergies, infections, and severe eye disorders are some of the side effects of contact lenses. Is there more to it? Let’s find out!

Are lenses bad for your eyes?

There are many reasons why one would choose contact lenses over glasses. However, despite their popularity, contact lenses can put your eye health at risk for ailments like corneal ulcers. Careful use may be a solution, but it does not guarantee safety.

These conditions usually develop very quickly and can soon become severe. In rare cases, these might even cause blindness.

It is very important to be very vigilant while using contact lenses. You must start using them only after consulting with a doctor, remove them the moment they cause discomfort, and keep getting regular eye checkups to control any conditions from developing.

There is a whole list of contact lenses disadvantages, but infections top the list. What are some of the most commonly diagnosed contact lens-induced eye infections?

To understand that, let’s first understand:

What is contact lens keratitis?

Contact lens Keratitis is a corneal infection or a corneal epithelial defect. It is one of the most severe contact lens side effects and potentially causes blindness. The infection is faced by contact lens users who fail to take proper care of their lenses, as directed by the doctor. Contact lens Keratitis is caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites.

Now, let’s dive into:

Most common contact lens infections

Eye infections that develop due to contact lenses can cause a lot of discomforts. Based on the severity and upon negligence, they might also lead to partial or complete vision loss. Keratitis is the most common eye infection, and one of the most feared contact lenses side effects. There are various cases of keratitis, that differ based on their causal factors:

1. Bacterial keratitis

Also known as corneal eye infection, Bacterial Keratitis is an eye infection caused by a bacteria named Pseudomonas Aeruginosa or Staphylococcus Aureus. It usually results from negligence in the hygiene-maintenance of contact lenses.

2. Fungal keratitis

It Is another common eye infection among contact lens users. It is caused due to exposure to fungi such as Candida, Aspergillus, or Fusarium. Contact lens users usually develop this type of eye infection if they use tap water to clean or store the lenses.

3. Viral keratitis

Another typical contact lens-related eye infection is Viral Keratitis. Also known as Herpes Keratitis, this infection is caused when the wearer comes in contact with the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). HSV can be transmitted to one's eye by touching an infected area and inserting contact lenses without washing hands after exposure.

4. Acanthamoeba Keratitis

Parasitic or Acanthamoeba Keratitis is a rare but severe eye infection caused by contact lens users. It results from a single-celled organism- Amoeba. Usually, water bodies such as lakes and oceans have these organisms. Hence, if a user cleans contact lenses using tap water, they are exposed to the risk of this infection. Swimming pools and hot tubs can also act as a source of this infection.

I know this must have been scary. But, don’t you worry. Allow me to introduce you to some easy cures and treatments that can help.

Contact Lens Infection Treatment

The treatment of contact lens infections is based on the causing agent and severity of the condition. Usually, mild eye infections are treated with eye drops. For moderate cases, oral medications are also added to the treatment. However, for severe cases, surgical procedures are required.

To understand a little deeper, let me quickly take you through

Contact Lens keratitis Treatment

There is no standard treatment that can cure all kinds of keratitis. The treatment differs from causal agent to causal agent.

  • Bacterial Keratitis: In mild cases, Bacterial Keratitis is treated with antibiotic eyedrops. However, oral antibiotics are also included in the treatment in moderate to severe cases.

  • Fungal Keratitis: Anti-fungal eyedrops and oral medications are used to treat Fungal Keratitis.

  • Viral Keratitis: This Keratitis is treated with artificial tear drops and antiviral eyedrops. Based on the severity, oral medications are also added.

  • Acanthamoeba Keratitis: This kind of Keratitis is a little challenging to be treated. In mild cases, it is treated with antibiotic drops. However, a corneal transplant is needed if it is a severe case.

Contact Lens Infection Symptoms

All contact lens users must stay observant of their eye health to detect early symptoms of the infection quickly. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Tearing

  • Discharge from eyes

  • Blurry vision

  • Unusual eye redness

  • Pain in the eyes

  • Extra light sensitivity

  • A continuous feeling of something being in the eyes

  • Itchy or burning sensation in the eyes

When to see a doctor?

Contact lenses' side effects can range from mild to severe, and neglecting them should never be an option. I would suggest you consult an eye health expert as soon as you feel discomfort in your eyes or observe any of the symptoms we have discussed so far.

That bring sus to the end of our discussion today,

Final Thoughts

While contact lenses have several advantages when compared to spectacles, still, they aren’t the most ideal vision correction method out there. There is a long list of contact lenses' disadvantages and side effects. Hence, it is important to start using contact lenses after consulting a doctor. Users are also advised to get their eyes checked upon experiencing discomfort. Trust me on this, timely treatment can save a lot of trouble.


The Author :

Dr. Sunil Khattri

+91 9811618704

Dr Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.

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