Contact Lenses May Lead to Serious Eye Infections If Not Used Properly

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September 28, 2016 | 28,841 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Although very popular, contact lenses can increase your risk of eye infections, corneal abrasions, corneal ulcerations, vision loss and even loss of your eye
  • Your brain depends on full-spectrum light to enter through your eyes, so UV filtered lenses may increase your risk of certain conditions
  • Proper care of your lenses includes never sleeping, swimming or showering with your lenses in, routinely replacing your lens case, washing your lens after each use and more

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

Your eyes need full spectrum light to stay healthy, just as your body requires sunlight.5 When light enters your eye it not only helps you to see but also goes to your brain's hypothalamus.

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."

Studies have also demonstrated poor lighting is associated with headaches, stress, fatigue and strained, watery eyes.7 Poor lighting is also associated with poor work production.8

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.


[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

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  • 2 Fast Facts| Contact Lenses | CDC. (2016). Cdc.gov. Retrieved 24 August 2016
  • 3 How Contact Lenses Work | Contact Lens Information | CooperVision. (2016). Coopervision.com.
  • 4 A Brief History of Contact Lenses. (2016). Contactlenses.org. Retrieved 24 August 2016
  • 5 Mal-illumination - the silent epidemic. (2009). News-Medical.net.
  • 6 P L Turner, M. (2008). Circadian photoreception: ageing and the eye’s important role in systemic health. The British Journal Of Ophthalmology, 92(11),
  • 7 Why CFL's Aren't Such a Bright Idea. (2016). Psychology Today.
  • 8 (2016). Fastcompany.com. Retrieved 24 August 2016
  • 9 National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Retrieved 24 August 2016
  • 11 Improper Use of Contact Lenses Can Cause Serious Infections. (2016). Time.com. Retrieved 24 August 2016
  • 12 CDC Press Releases. (2016). CDC. Retrieved 24 August 2016
  • 13 E, G. (2016). Risk of infection from sleeping with contact lenses on: causes of risk. - PubMed - NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  • 14, 15 Cope, J. (2016). Contact Lens–Related Corneal Infections — United States, 2005–2015. MMWR. Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report
  • 16 Overnight Contacts Can Help Kids' Sight During Day, But Also Carry Risks. (2016). NPR.org. Retrieved 25 August 2016
  • 17 Curing Myopia in Children: Pros and Cons of Orthokeratology. (2015). Natural Vision Improvement - Eye Exercises & Eye Vitamins.
  • 18, 23 Student goes blind after keeping her contact lenses in for six months. (2014). Mail Online. Retrieved 25 August 2016
  • 19 Why you should NOT sleep in your contact lenses. (2016). Visiontexas.com. Retrieved 25 August 2016
  • 20 Microcysts and Vacuoles| myalcon.com. (2016). Myalcon.com
  • 21 Joseph P. Shovlin, O. (2016). Clear Cause of Clare. Reviewofoptometry.com. Retrieved 25 August 2016
  • 22 4 Reasons Why You Should Stop Sleeping With Your Contact Lenses. (2016). Medical Daily. Retrieved 25 August 2016
  • 24 Can you Swim with Contact Lenses? | CooperVision. (2016). Coopervision.com. Retrieved 25 August 2016
  • 25 Preventing Contact Lens Overuse & Effects of contact lenses. (2015). HealthStatus. Retrieved 25 August 2016
  • 26 Proper Care of Contact Lenses. (2016). American Academy of Ophthalmology. Retrieved 25 August 2016
  • 27 Prevent eye infections from contact lenses with these tips. (2016). Cbsnews.com. Retrieved 25 August 2016