College Central®

Ask around. The Network works.®

A Closer Look at Contact Lenses -- Part II

Dr. Mark Fromer -- If you are considering or currently wear contact lenses as an alternative to glasses, for improved vision, or for cosmetic reasons, keep in mind that good hygiene is an important part of eye health.

Causes for contact lens irritation and infection

We recommend that you never sleep in your contact lenses as it puts you at increased risk for a severe eye infection.

Irritation and infection from contact lenses is directly linked to poor hygiene, contact lens over wear, or poor contact lens fit.

If a contact lens is not cleaned properly, the patient is at great risk for a multitude of infections.

Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare, very painful, and potentially blinding infection of the cornea. The organism that causes the infection has been found in most environments including domestic tap water, chlorinated swimming pools, hot tubs and bottled water. It is also present in the nasal passages of healthy people.

Wash your hands with soap and water before you put in or take out contact lenses. Do not use tap water to rinse or to store lenses.

Do not wear contacts while showering, in hot tubs, or swimming without goggles. Soft lenses absorb chemicals and microbes from the water. Gas permeable lenses may float out of the eyes.

Contacts should not be worn while sleeping. Sleeping with lenses in the eyes, deprives the cornea of oxygen; this increases the risk of infection. For extended-wear lenses, follow your eye doctor's recommendations for the length of time you can safely leave the lenses in your eyes. Over use of contact lenses may create abnormal blood vessels growing into the normally clear cornea.

Always put your contacts in your eyes before you put on makeup. Use water-soluble makeup. Do not use lash-building mascara, because particles may get into your eyes. If you put eyeliner between your lashes and your eyes, you may discolor soft lenses permanently.

Do not put contact lenses in your mouth to moisten or clean them, as it may increase the risk of eye infection. A major cause of serious infections is using saliva to clean the lens. This happens when a contact lens wearer must remove a lens or if a lens falls out of the eye and no solution is available. The best prevention is to have a small bottle of rewetting solution with you at all times. Never put contact lenses in your mouth to lubricate them.

Some people use homemade or non-contact-lens saline solutions in an effort to save money. These solutions may cause severe irritation or blinding infections (some saline solutions are not sterile) and should never be used. Always use the correct contact-lens solution recommended by the fitter. If you want to change solutions, you should first check with your doctor because some solutions may be incompatible with certain lenses. Switching solutions without the advice of your contact lens practitioner is not recommended.

If lenses are worn longer than recommended or in people whose eyes are particularly sensitive, lenses may develop deposits on the surface and cause irritation.

Each time you wear your lenses you should check that your eyes look clear (no redness), feel comfortable and see well. If they do not, remove your lenses immediately. See your eye doctor promptly if you have burning, redness, pain, unusual light sensitivity, or blurred vision.

Most cases of infections are preventable if you follow the instructions given by your doctor and have regular check-ups as specified by your practitioner.

Contact lens intolerance is associated with the following conditions:

-- Irritated eyes from allergies or exposure to dust or chemicals at the job
-- An overactive thyroid gland
-- Uncontrolled diabetes
-- Severe arthritis
-- Dry eyes
-- Pregnancy
-- Eye disease that affects the surface of the eye

Also, the use of birth control pills, diuretics, antihistamines, or decongestants increases contact lens intolerance.

Mark D. Fromer, M.D., board certified ophthalmologist in surgery and treatment of eye diseases, has the distinction of being the eye surgeon for the New York Rangers hockey team. Dr. Fromer specializes in laser vision correction procedures, lectures extensively throughout the U.S., and maintains a very active role in teaching advanced surgical techniques and laser vision correction surgery to fellow ophthalmologists. Fromer Eye Centers, with three offices in NYC, is one of only four beta sites worldwide for the latest diagnostic software developed by Heidelberg instruments for the early detection and treatment of diabetic macular edema. For more information on this and other forms of advanced vision care, visit Fromer Eye Centers.

© 2009 Dr. Mark Fromer

Return to top

The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.