Contact Lenses and Your Health

There are multiple ways to correct your vision and contact lenses are perhaps the most popular. Over 40 million Americans over the age of 18 wear vision correcting contact lenses. While they are considered safe, proper care of the eye surface can significantly decrease the risk of problems. In fact, of those 40 million contact lens wearers, 1 million of them will have contact lenses complications that require medical attention annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), contact lenses are the single largest risk factor for Microbial Keratitis (corneal infections).

The cornea is the clear dome over the iris – the colored part of your eye. But red eyes are not a fun color when it comes to contact lenses. The cornea has no blood supply, so it receives a lot of its oxygen from the air. Contact lens block this pathway decreasing the amount of oxygen reaching the cornea. This hypoxia – or lack of oxygen- decreases the cornea’s ability to defend itself against bacteria and viruses. Therefore, it is susceptible of contracting an infection – which can lead to eye irritation, sensitivity to light, blurriness and even decreased vision. However, if contact lenses are properly cared for, the risk becomes much less. Unfortunately, many wearers are not clear on important steps in contact lens care.

The Proper Care and Usage of Contact Lenses 

  1. Always wash your hands before handling your contact lenses.
  2. Clean and store your contact lenses in solution, never water, then discard solution from the case after inserting your contact lens. Do not “top off” solution each night.
  3. Replace your case at least every 3 months; it is a reservoir of bacteria.
  4. Do not swim, sleep or shower in your contact lenses.
  5. Replace contact lenses according to manufacturer guidelines.
  6. Have at least yearly (more if there are complications or risk factors) eye exams.
  7. Always have a backup pair of glasses, that way you are less likely to over-wear your contact lenses.

Understanding The Proper Types of Contact Lenses
Soft contact lenses are comfortable and easier to adapt to than rigid lenses coming in various types, such as:

  • Daily wear lenses. Worn during the day and removed each night to be cleaned and disinfected. This type is not very common as the cleaning regimen is more demanding.
  • Extended wear lenses. Worn as extended lenses while you sleep, they must be removed for cleaning and disinfecting at least once a week. Be cautious with overnight use, though, since it increases the risk of eye infections.
  • Disposable lenses. Worn during the day and removed at night. They still need to be cleaned or disinfected. You use them for the recommended time frame — such as daily, weekly or monthly — and discard them.
  • Daily Disposables – Soft lenses that are discarded every day. These are often an excellent option for patients with dry eyes or allergy issues, or are lax on cleaning.


Hard contact lenses

  • Rigid, gas-permeable lenses, or RGP, provide clear, crisp vision for most vision problems.
  • These lenses can take weeks to adjust to, but they offer excellent vision, and one pair can last for a few years as long as the patients prescription and cornea are stable.

Specialized contact lenses
Depending on your vision needs, you might consider specialized contact lenses, such as:

  • Hybrid contact lenses. Hybrid contact lenses feature a hard, gas-permeable center surrounded by a soft outer ring.
  • Bifocal or multifocal contact lenses. These lenses, which are available in both soft and RGP, can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism in combination with age-related loss of close-up vision (presbyopia).
  • Tinted contact lenses. Some contact lenses are tinted, either for cosmetic or therapeutic purposes, such as color perception or colorblindness.
  • Scleral/mini-scleral. Specialty RGP lens is used to help patients with corneal diseases or irregular curvature achieve improved vision from that which standard RGP, soft lenses or glasses can not achieve.


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