A contact lens is a clear piece of plastic that sits on the surface of the cornea. It corrects for your glasses prescription, so it allows you to see very well without the need for cumbersome glasses. Contact lenses, if used appropriately, are a wonderful tool to get excellent vision. In fact, depending on your glasses prescription, many time people see better with their contacts than they do with their spectacles. Unfortunately, contact lenses can be very dangerous if not used correctly. Our cornea specialists at SightMD have seen many cases of contact lens related damage to the eyes.
The cornea, which is the thin, clear piece of tissue at the front of the eye, gets its oxygen from the air. There are no blood vessels in the cornea, which is one of the reasons it is clear. A contact lens is a piece of plastic sitting on the cornea. It blocks the cornea from getting oxygen from the air. Contact lens over wear can lead to abnormal blood vessels growing into the cornea, known as pannus. Chronic oxygen deprivation leads to pannus as well as corneal swelling, glare, halos and eye irritation.
Another problem related to contact lens wear often diagnosed by our SightMD team is bacterial or fungal keratitis. This is a very dangerous infection of the cornea that is potentially blinding. Contact lens wearers develop multiple micro-abrasions on the surface of the eye. These tiny scratches or abrasions predispose them to dangerous infections. Any time a contact lens wearer develops eye pain, redness, light sensitivity (known as photophobia) or a decrease in vision, he or she must stop all contact lens use and be seen by a doctor immediately. A bacterial or fungal keratitis must be addressed as soon as possible to prevent permanent corneal scarring and potential blindness.
Another contact lens related problem that our vision care experts often diagnose is inflammation of the cornea, known as keratitis. The condition can be related to contact lens overwear or a sensitivity to the contact lens solution in which the contacts are stored. Giant papillary conjunctivitis is another type of inflammation that can be seen in the eye related to contact lens over wear.
Any contact lens wearer should limit wear time to 8-10 hours per day. No one should sleep in their contacts. Re-wetting drops help to keep the eye lubricated and decrease the chances of infection or allergies. Furthermore, a good fitting contact lens is protective against the problems discussed above. Additionally, should anyone develop any eye redness, pain, visual problems or light sensitivity while wearing their contacts, they should discontinue the use of their contacts and seek medical attention immediately to rule out an infection.