If you wear contact lenses, do reports of multiple contacts stuck in the
eye or amoeba-born eye infections keep you up at night? More important,
should they? According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a whopping 40.9 million people ages 18 and above wear contact lenses
in the United States, which could explain why wacky contact lens stories
always make the news.
We asked Key-Whitman Eye Center’s
Mesquite Optometrist Tara Hardin to share her insight on contact lens complications and what steps you
can take to wear contacts safely.
Some of the wacky, common and dangerous contact lens issues Dr. Hardin
has seen include:
No. 1: Multiple contact lenses stuck in the eye.
Last year, eye surgeons found a mass of
27 contacts stuck in the eye of a 67-year-old British woman prior to her cataract surgery. An ophthalmologist involved in the case
speculated that the woman’s deep-set eyes may have contributed to
the incident, but 27 lenses? How does something like that happen?
According to Dr. Hardin, “I have treated patients with multiple lenses
in their eyes, but the most I have seen in a patient is three –
not anywhere near 27 lenses. This usually happens to people who occasionally
sleep in their contacts – not every night. When morning comes, they
forget they slept in their contacts and pop another lens in their eye.
They come in with complaints that they can’t see, discomfort or
both. We also see patients with soft lenses rolled up under the eyelid,
which can be very uncomfortable.”
No. 2: Massive discomfort from accidentally putting lens cleaning solution
into the eye.
One of the best ways to clean contact lenses is to use a hydrogen peroxide-based
disinfecting solution, but you don’t want to get that stuff in your
eyes – ever.
As Dr. Hardin explains, “Hydrogen peroxide-based solutions, like
Clear Care, are typically better than multipurpose contact lens solutions,
because they are preservative free and can completely disinfect the lenses.
However, it takes a full six hours for the solution to completely neutralize,
so if you take the lenses out of the solution early, you’re going
to be in for a very bad and uncomfortable day. Don’t assume you
can remove the lenses in 5 hours and 50 minutes and be OK. If you do accidentally
get disinfecting solution in your eyes, flush your eyes with water and
see your eye doctor as soon as possible.”
Read this recent post to
learn how to avoid the potential hazard above
and increase comfort with daily wear contact lenses.
No. 3: Yucky eye parasites that cause serious eye infections.
Acanthamoeba are tiny, one-celled parasites commonly found in tap water,
well water, hot tubs, soil, sewage systems and other bodies of water.
When the parasites infect the cornea, the eye infection acanthamoeba keratitis
results. This infection can be difficult to treat and may lead to blindness
or the need for a corneal transplant.
The condition was initially discovered in 1973, and about 90 percent of those suffering from the infection were contact
lens wearers. While rare, people can contract acanthamoeba keratitis from
swimming or showering while wearing contacts. The amoebae live in water
and thrive in unsanitary environments.
“Contact lens wearers are more at risk for this infection, because
the amoebae can fester and absorb into soft contact lenses, as well as
contaminated, multipurpose contact lens solution. It’s hard to clean
lenses 100 percent, and if you are topping off the solution instead of
replacing it, rinsing contacts with tap water and not cleaning out the
case every day, your risk is even higher,” Dr. Hardin says.
Learn about the
“flesh-eating” eye infection one Dallas mom faced in this past story.
No. 4: Other dangerous eye infections and corneal ulcers.
“The most common types of contact lens complications we see are bacterial
and fungal eye infections. Acanthamoeba keratitis and
corneal ulcers are less common, but they happen more than you would expect. However,
all of these conditions usually happen to people who are not compliant
with proper contact lens wear and care,” Dr. Hardin says.
Along with not disinfecting contacts and lens cases daily, sleeping in
contact lenses or wearing them longer than the recommended time frame
could lead to eye infections, ulcers and vision loss. Even if a contact
lens is FDA approved to sleep in, it can inhibit oxygen from getting to
the cornea, which is essential for eye health.
After one of Dr. Hardin’s patients experienced a horrific eye infection,
the patient decided to
ditch contact lenses for life and get LASIK surgery. As Dr. Hardin explains, “Even though the patient disposed of her
contacts according to schedule, she experienced a typical bacterial ulcer
after regularly sleeping in her contacts once or twice a week. While she
slept, her cornea was deprived of oxygen. Plus, bacteria were hanging
out in her dirty contacts and eyes all night long, which created the ideal
environment for an eye infection to quickly go from festering to full
blown. She never wanted to go through that again.”
Check out this past post to learn why you should NEVER purchase decorative
or colored contact lenses online or over-the-counter.
No. 5: Triggering or worsening of dry eye and allergy symptoms.
Eye discomfort related to allergies and dryness are also common complaints Dr. Hardin hears from contact lens patients.
Many people wear contacts comfortably for years, then certain lifestyle,
work, environmental or medical changes increase dryness in the eyes, which
make wearing contacts intolerable.
“Some systemic medications for high blood pressure and depression
can increase dryness, and certain occupational factors – extensive
computer work, working outdoors, etc. – make people contact lens
intolerant due to dryness. I often encourage those patients to consider
LASIK, especially if they also hate wearing glasses,” Dr. Hardin says.
Dr. Hardin’s Tips for Safe Contact Lens Wear and Happy Eyes
Wondering how you can continue to see safely and comfortably? Dr. Hardin
shares her top tips below:
Don’t sleep in your contacts unless it’s absolutely necessary.
(Dr. Hardin only supports the use of “sleep-in” contacts for
people like firefighters or EMTs who need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.)
Never wear contacts in the shower or during activities in and around water.
Never rinse contacts with tap water, and if you do get tap water on your
contact lens, disinfect the lens or toss it out.
Wash your hands thoroughly before inserting or removing contacts.
Clean your contact case daily and replace old solution with fresh solution.
Topping off old solution is a big no-no. “It’s like taking
a bath in old bath water, and who wants to do that?” Dr. Hardin says.
Consider replacing multipurpose solution with a hydrogen peroxide lens
If you accidentally get lens disinfectant in your eye, flush eyes with
water and see an eye doctor ASAP.
Schedule a reminder in your calendar, phone or personal assistant to remind
you when to replace old lenses with a fresh pair.
Curious about contact lenses or other vision correction options like LASIK?
To schedule an eye exam with Dr. Hardin at Key-Whitman Eye Center’s
Mesquite office or another eye doctor at our Dallas, North Dallas, Arlington,
South Arlington or Plano locations, contact our main office at (972) 905-9128 or set up an appointment online.
ABOUT DR. HARDIN:
Dr. Tara Hardin received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from
Texas Tech University. The Plano native went on to earn her Doctor of
Optometry degree from the University of Houston College of Optometry,
where she graduated with honors. Dr. Hardin is extensively trained in
pre- and post-operative management of cataract and refractive surgery
(LASIK and cataract surgery) patients and specializes in the diagnosis
and treatment of eye diseases and conditions as well as the fitting of
soft contact lenses. In her spare time, Dr. Hardin enjoys spending time
with her husband and four children.
Photo Source: Adobe Stock