You finally have a pair of contact lenses, yay! Now you can swap them with your spectacles when you go out with your friends.
Before you say goodbye to your spectacles though, there are a few health risks to contact lenses that you should know. Contact lenses are a convenient alternative to spectacles, but if you don’t care for them properly, they can put your eyes at risk for certain eye infections.
Symptoms of an eye irritation or infection may include:
- Blurred vision
- Unusual redness
- An itchy or burning feeling
- Unusual sensitivity to light
- Excessive tearing and discharge
Risks of contact lenses
This is one of the most common infections related to contact lenses. It’s an infection of the clear dome that covers the coloured part of your eye, called the cornea. The infection can damage the structure and shape of the cornea.
Visual loss and blindness
When eye infections like bacterial keratitis are left untreated, your vision may be impaired. In severe cases, it may even cause blindness.
Being allergic to the material used to make contact lenses (plastic or silicone) or using a pair of contact lenses for too long may lead to corneal inflammation or an injury. This can lead to painful scarring or permanent damage to your vision.
Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
Pink eye is a viral infection of the outer membrane of your eyeball and inner eyelid. Wearing contact lenses while you have pink eye can slow down the treatment process and it may also put you at risk of spreading the infection. Avoid wearing contact lenses until after your pink eye has cleared up and get rid of any lenses that you have worn around the time of the infection.
Reduced blinking reflex
Blinking is an involuntary, protective movement to which we usually don’t pay much attention. It helps keep irritants like dust, bacteria and insects from harming your eyes. Wearing contact lenses may put you at risk of having a reduced ability to blink, thereby increasing your risk of infection.
If you suspect you have an eye infection, you should:
- Remove your contact lenses immediately.
- See an optometrist as soon as possible.
- Keep the eye lenses you removed and store them in a case as your eye care professional may want to test them for bacteria.
To reduce the risk of these conditions, you should:
- Clean and disinfect your contact lenses properly. Check the labelling instructions to learn how.
- Ask an optician how to rub and rinse your contact lenses correctly.
- Never go to sleep without taking out your contact lenses first
- Replace your contact lens storage containers at least every three months or as directed by an eye care professional.
- Remove your contact lenses before you go swimming to lower the risk of picking up bacteria from the water.
- Never reuse the contact lens solution. Always get rid of leftover contact lens solution after each use.