By Dr. Mercola
Two-thirds of the 41 million people in the U.S.1 who wear contact lenses to correct their vision are women.2 Ten percent of wearers are under 18 years and 25 percent are older than 45. The remaining majority are between 18 and 45 years old.
Although popular, wearing contacts increases your risk of eye infections, damage to the cornea and alters the microbial biome that exists naturally in your eye. In each case, the results can be either dangerous or disastrous to your sight.
Before understanding the risks, it's helpful to know how your eye works and how contact lenses may help correct your vision. Children report improvements in perceived attraction when wearing lenses, but unless they care for their eyes and lenses properly, they may be at increased risk of losing their eyesight altogether.
How Your Eye Functions
What you see is not interpreted in your eyes but rather in your brain. Light passes through the front of your eye (cornea) and your lens. These structures help focus the light on the retina at the back of your eye.
The cells in the retina then convert the light to electrochemical impulses making their way over the optic nerve and into your brain. The front of your eye acts like a camera lens, letting more light in at night and less during the day. This is why your pupils are larger at night, to let in more light and allow you to see.
Contact lenses are worn in "contact" with the eye. They are prescription lenses designed to correct vision errors, much like miniature eye glasses. They change where the light is focused on the retina, which improves your eyesight.3
These little lenses move with the eye and float on your tear film over the surface of your cornea. As far back as 1508, Leonardo da Vinci had illustrated the concept of contact lenses. The first lenses were made of glass in 1887.
Through the years they graduated to plastic, soft lenses, disposable lenses, gas permeable and, most recently, custom-manufactured silicone hydrogel lenses.4
Gas permeable (GP) lenses are made of firm plastic, have less water, are less flexible and resist bacteria more than soft lenses. The GP lenses also keep their shape as you blink, maintaining your prescription better than soft lenses.
The Importance of Full Spectrum Light
This is the gland in your brain that controls your body temperature, hunger, thirst, water balance and blood pressure.
It also has a significant impact on your pituitary gland that secretes many different essential hormones. For this reason exposure to full-spectrum lighting is an effective therapy for treating depression, infection and more.
According to research by Dr. Martin Mainster and Dr. Patricia Turner at the University of Kansas School of Medicine:6
"Inadequate environmental light and/or ganglion photoreception can cause circadian disruption, increasing the risk of insomnia, depression, numerous systemic disorders and possibly early mortality.
Artificial lighting is dimmer and less blue-weighted than natural daylight, contributing to age-related losses in unconscious circadian photoreception."
Conversely, companies that have switched to full-spectrum lights report improved employee morale, greater productivity, reduced errors and decreased absenteeism.9
If you choose to use contact lenses it is important to choose lenses that do not filter UV light as they will increase the risk your eyes and brain will not receive enough UV light to maintain your health and wellness.
You will also need to protect your eyes from over exposure to UV light. Read my previous article titled, "Common Myths About Sunglasses That Can Hurt You" for tips about when to wear sunglasses and how to pick a pair that meet your lifestyle and physical needs.
Increased Risk of Infection and Eye Damage With Improper Care
This short video demonstrates how to properly clean and store your lenses. Proper care of your lenses will reduce your potential risk for injury, infection or damage to your eyesight. Here are several more tips:26,27
✓ Before handling your lenses to insert or take them out, wash your hands with soap and water and dry with a lint-free towel.
✓ Change your contact lens case every one to three months.
✓ Keep your lens case clean; allow it to air dry between uses.
✓ Always use fresh solution; don't wait for the bottle to pass the expiration date to change it.
✓ Never sleep, shower, swim or use a hot tub in your contact lenses.
✓ Replace your contact lenses as your doctor prescribes.
✓ Never share contact lenses
✓ Never clean your lenses with tap water.
✓ Visit your eye doctor annually to check your prescription and ensure your lenses fit your eyes.
✓ Do not use saline or rewetting solution to store or disinfect your lenses
✓ Do not top off the solution in your lens case
✓ Do not allow the tip of the lens solution to come in contact with anything
✓ Do not transfer lens solution to a travel size container, as this may affect the sterility of the solution.