Contact lenses can cause a variety of eye disorders, depending on the type of contact lens worn, cleaning solutions, hygiene, fit and wearing schedule. According to “The Eye Book,” complications that are caused by contact lenses are reversible. Complications include dry eyes, corneal edema, ulcers, neovascularization, conjunctivitis and infections.
Contact lenses can contribute to dry eyes, especially as the patient gets older. Symptoms include redness, itchiness, burning and a feeling that something is scratching the eye. According to the All About Vision website, dry eyes are the most common complaint among contact lens wearers. However, given today’s contact lens options--depending on what is causing the dry eyes--doctors may be able to switch the type of lens or materials used to avoid dry eyes. In addition, lubricant drops may help the eyes maintain moisture.
Corneal edema--swelling of the cornea--has many causes, including over-wear of certain types of contact lenses. The cornea is the transparent part of the eye involved with focusing. According to "The Eye Book," a lens can decrease the supply of oxygen to the cornea when it is too tight, too thick or if worn too long. Symptoms include clouded vision and in severe cases--red and painful eyes. Treatment includes discontinuing contact lens use and ointments or drops that reduce the edema and promote healing.
According to the Lens Design website, neovascularization is a condition in which new blood vessels grow into the cornea. A common cause is lack of oxygen--a result of wearing contact lenses that do not breathe. The high oxygen type of contact lens may treat and prevent this disorder. "The Eye Book" says that if the blood vessels spread unchecked, the condition may cause significant loss of vision that will need to be treated by a corneal transplant. There are no early symptoms. Therefore, routine medical examinations are important to detect any problems.
Corneal Ulcers and Infections
Eye infections can occur whether a person wears contact lenses or not since bacteria live around the eyes. However, contact lenses can make an infection worse. "The Eye Book" says that the moist space between the lens and cornea can act as an incubator for bacteria--allowing it to flourish. A corneal ulcer is a severe and painful infection that can scar the cornea and cloud vision. The eye may become red with discharge and sensitive to light. The condition usually heals given early medical attention and discontinued contact lens use.
Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis
Giant papillary conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva--the tissue underneath the eyelid. It appears to affect people who wear soft contact lenses, especially during the allergy season. According to Golden Vision Clinic, symptoms include red, itchy, irritated eyes and blurred vision while wearing the lenses. Possible causes are wearing old contacts, improper cleaning and over wearing the lenses. Dr. Robert Abel Jr., author of “The Eye Care Revolution,” says that treatment might include switching to the smaller, semi-rigid gas-permeable lenses and avoiding cleaning products with preservatives that might causes an allergic reaction.
- “The Eye Book”; Gary H. Cassel, M.D., Michael D. Billig, O.D. and Harry G. Randall, M.D.; 1998
- “The Eye Care Revolution”; Robert Abel Jr., M.D.; 1999
- All About Vision: Dry Eyes