The dangers of contact lenses

Posted: May 02 2017

The dangers of contact lenses

Millions of people use contact lenses every day. While this form of vision correction isn’t normally considered hazardous, it’s important to understand that wearing contact lenses does carry some risk, including an increased likelihood of eye infection. Here we take a look at the potential dangers of contact lenses, to help you better understand the recommendations for their use, reduce your risk of painful or dangerous side-effects and decide if contact lenses are the right choice for you.

Common side-effects and rarer dangers

Contact lenses offer more convenience than spectacles, but wearing them for prolonged periods can result in some common side-effects including discomfort, dry eyes and infection. For most contact lens users, the adverse effects won’t get any worse than this. However, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of more severe effects, which can include sight loss in very rare cases.

  • Eye scratches or corneal abrasion can occur as a result of wearing dirty or ill-fitting contact lenses.
  • Eye infections happen more frequently in contact lens users. Your risk is raised further if you wear contact lenses while swimming or showering, or if you leave your contacts in for more than the recommended 8 hours per day.
  • Sight loss due to contact lens use can happen very occasionally. A recent media report followed the case of a woman who lost her sight following an eye infection called acanthamoeba keratitis, probably caused by exposing her contact lens to water.

The importance of following guidelines

Used in accordance with safety guidelines, contact lenses are a relatively low-risk option. The dangers of contact lenses are heightened considerably when they are used incorrectly however, or for prolonged periods.

Some common mistakes include:

  • Wearing contact lenses for too long. It is recommended that contact lenses should be worn for a maximum of 8 hours per day, but many people often use them for longer than this. The risks of prolonged use include red eye, bacterial infection and corneal ulcers (which can be sight threatening). If you wear contact lenses you should take care to remove them and wear spectacles for a period each day, and always take them off when you go to sleep at night.
  • Poor hygiene. A contact lens is in effect a foreign object worn on the eye. So, good hygiene is essential to prevent infection. Poor hygiene practices while using contact lenses can result in bacterial infection, corneal ulcers and even a very serious, sight-threatening condition called microbial keratitis.

In order to ensure that you are using your contacts as instructed, always study the guidelines on your particular brand of lenses, and follow the advice of your optician.

Safer alternatives

Are contact lenses for you, or should you consider an alternative form of vision correction? This is a very personal decision and will depend on your own lifestyle and preferences. If you are concerned about the relative risks and dangers of contact lenses, you may feel more peace of mind by choosing an option that carries lower risk:

  • Spectacles are not associated with any of the risks outlined above. However, you may find wearing glasses inconvenient or you may not like the way it alters your appearance.
  • Laser eye surgery is a surprisingly safe form of vision correction, especially when carried out by an experienced surgeon using hi-tech equipment, such as at OCL.
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