Patients risking blindness and eye damage with poor contact lens care

Woman applying contact lens
Andrew Renaut

What are the benefits of contact lenses?

Contact lenses are synthetic lenses that are placed on the surface of the eye for the purpose of correcting refractive errors (vision problems) by adding or subtracting focusing power to the eye’s cornea and lens.

These include:

  • long-sightedness.
  • short-sightedness.
  • astigmatism (blurred vision.
  • presbyopia (the lens is unable to focus properly).

Complications associated with contact lenses

While contact lenses offer a safe and convenient alternative to eyeglasses, a growing body of researchers have seen a rise in the number of cases of severe eye infections, which in rare instances lead to loss of vision. Among the most serious is a rare inflammation of the cornea (the clear dome covering the coloured part of the eye), known as microbial keratitis, caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Other complications, on the other hand, have milder symptoms which usually can be resolved by temporarily not wearing contact lenses. These include:

  • Eye Allergies
  • Eye Dryness
  • Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis – which are bumps that appear underneath the eyelid.
  • Corneal abrasion – when the cornea is scratched or scraped
  • CLARE (Contact Lens-induced Acute Red Eye) – the symptoms include red, irritated eyes.
  • Corneal infiltrates – when the cornea becomes irritated indicating inflammation and possible infection.
  • Neovascularisation – new blood vessels growing onto the cornea, which can sometimes cause redness of the eye.

According to a report documented in the Wall Street Journal, one in three eye problems suffered by lens users is a direct result of a significant non-compliance with contact lens care, case hygiene, and lens case replacement procedures. While sleeping in contacts or keeping the lens solution in the case instead of disposing it out may seem like a small infraction, infections can still happen within 24 hours of wearing compromised lenses. This is because the germs from the case can actually stick to the lens and eventually get onto the eye and attack the cornea. Hence, the bad habits of contact lens wearers, including prolonged wear and overnight use, can cause red and crusty infected eyes that can further result in visual impairment or blindness.