Contact lenses. Easy to use, even easier to abuse
For those with poor eyesight, wearing contact lenses can open up a world of convenience. But if not worn properly, they can cause lifelong damage to your eyes.
While we expect our eyesight to diminish with age, even youngsters aren’t immune to poor eye health when it comes to contact lenses.
Recently, a 67-year-old made global headlines when doctors discovered that 27 contact lenses had been lost in her eye. You may believe that you could never make such a faux pas yourself, but doctors say users are becoming increasingly lax about their contact lenses.
Teenagers and young adults are also at risk, picking up bad habits that could result in nasty eye infections or even blindness.
Dr Hamed Anwar, consultant ophthalmologist and corneal, cataract and refractive surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital Abu Dhabi, frequently treats patients for complications caused by contact lens wear.
In the Middle East, the typical contact lens user is in their late 20s, which is younger than the average age in Europe or the US.
“The majority of users are busy, young professionals who lead very full and active lives, waking up early and staying awake late,” Dr Hamed explains. “A lack of time coupled with a lack of awareness with regards to contact lens hygiene puts this group at an increased risk of suffering from various issues related to their contact lenses.”
Types of contact lenses
There are essentially two types of lenses: extended wear and daily disposable.
Dr Hamed explains, “The lenses differ in material and although the US Food and Drug Administration has approved extended wear contact lenses for use overnight, recent data has shown a greater incidence of severe eye infections related to extended contact lens use. This is easy to understand considering that contact lenses are exposed to environmental pollutants during the course of wear throughout the day, and the fact that they act like sponges for bacteria.”
If you wear lenses, you no doubt will have been told not to sleep with them in, but sometimes laziness gets the better of you, and you’re probably thinking surely it can’t be that harmful.
Quite the opposite, Dr Hamed says: “When you close your eyes at night, the oxygen concentration at the front of the eye decreases. If you keep your lenses in while you sleep, it decreases further. This lack of oxygen causes your cornea (the clear window at the front of the eye) to swell up just enough for the cells in the skin on the surface of the eye to separate ever so slightly, allowing bacteria to get inside and cause an infection. To make things worse, contact lenses are like little petri dishes, allowing bugs to grow inside them, thus allowing a corneal infection to develop.”
If you’re looking at that pool thinking the water looks clear, think again.
“Water from taps, swimming pools and the sea contains all sorts of bacteria,” Dr Hamed warns. “Swimming or showering with your lenses in can contaminate your contact lenses, which can lead to a severe eye infection.
“The most dangerous bugs that live in water are amoeba. These are really difficult to treat and frequently cause severe sight loss requiring a corneal transplant.”
Keep it clean
Taking care of your lenses means considering the case and solution as well.
Dr Hamed stresses the importance of changing your contact lens case every month, as a thin layer of slime forms on the inside over time.
It’s also important to discard leftover solution in the case after removing your lenses, and to then allow the case to dry to avoid bacteria from growing in the residue and contaminating the lenses.
If you wake up in the morning with red eyes and continue with your routine of putting in your lenses, you should reconsider.
“If you do ever get a red eye, it’s better to not wear your lenses, as this could be the beginning of a corneal infection,” Dr Hamed stresses. “It’s best to see an eye-doctor sooner rather than later.”
It’s also a good idea to have a pair of glasses in case you can’t wear your lenses for whatever reason. If you are thinking about getting lenses, be sure to ask your ophthalmologist about the dos and don’ts of use.
As Dr Hamed says, “Your eyes will thank you for it”.
To find out more about Moorfields Eye Hospital Abu Dhabi or contact lens concerns, contact: 02 635 6161, moorfields.ae/abudhabi